Florida’s Biotechnician Assistant Credentialing Exam

FLATE has partnered with the biotechnology and biomanufacturing sector since 2008 in an effort to meet its
specific workforce needs. One long-term partner and supporter has been the Center of Excellence for Regenerative Health Biotechnology at the University of Florida (UF CERHB), which was instrumental in helping Hillsborough Community College (HCC) and other colleges, as well as K12 school districts, jump start biotechnology programs across the state. According to Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE, UF CERHB has provided curriculum and professional development for hundreds of educators across the state over the years. To enhance their support, UF CERHB stepped up to fill the gap by developing a blended assessment system for Florida schools that meets the state requirement for an aligned industry credential for CAPE (Career and Professional Education) academies.

UF CERHB through funding from Florida’s Department of Education’s, Division of Career and Adult Education, has developed an industry recognized exam to assess core skills and knowledge sets identified by industry, which are also represented within the standards of the secondary program and postsecondary introductory biotechnology courses. As an emerging and very diverse industry, a national certification does not exist. The exam serves as an assessment leading to a Florida industry-recognized credential, which is critical not only for added value to the secondary program and employment opportunities for students, but also to allow for appropriate FTE (full-time equivalent) funding to participating secondary schools under Florida’s CAPE act. In addition, students who successfully pass the exam with a score of 80%, or higher will be awarded the industry-recognized certificate as a “Bio technician Assistant” through UF CERHB, and will earn a minimum of three postsecondary credit hours toward an Associate of Science degree at the state colleges offering programs in biotechnology.

The instrument was developed to assess student understanding of core theoretical knowledge and practical
applications as outlined by industry (Banner Center for Biotechnology Needs Assessment and state-wide Focus Group Studies, 2007-2010). These have been delineated as “academic” and “performance” standards within the Florida Department of Education’s Career and Adult Education Manufacturing (secondary) frameworks of program number 8736000, which have also been aligned to the postsecondary frameworks of Introduction to Biotechnology, and the corresponding methods laboratory course. For the development process of the exam, these standards were aligned to corresponding test questions.

The exam consists of a written component (multiple choice, matching), as well as a practical component to assess mastery of equipment and techniques. Within the written portion of the test bank, the questions have been organized into question pools to allow for randomization of each individual test. The practical exam consists of 35 skills/techniques, with a corresponding rubric for mastery. A total of 100 points may be earned for each exam, with a cut score of 80% required for credentialing.

The exam has been vetted by the state’s industry organization BioFlorida, providing the state with an “industry-recognized” tool for awarding certification. BioFlorida committee members were presented the exam questions which were aligned with the corresponding course/industry standards. Committee members provided feedback on the scientific accuracy of individual questions, how well the exam questions align with the academic and performance standards, and overall thoughts on how well the exam and program reflect the knowledge and skill-base for core concept understanding and practical skills required for entry-level support positions in the industry.

The Biotechnician Assistant Credential was approved by Workforce Florida, Inc., and added to Florida’s Comprehensive Industry Certification List for the CAPE act beginning in the 2011/12 school year. The written (on-line) component of the exam is administered at UF CERHB approved testing sites via Cornerstone on Demand hosted by Intelladon. Access to the exam is controlled through the use of time-sensitive usernames and passwords assigned to approved test-site locations. The practical exam is also administered at UF CERHB approved testing sites, which must document the availability of required equipment, and qualified practical assessment proctor(s).

Participant registration, test-site registration, and proctor/practical assessment registration, documentation and instructions are available at the UF-CERHB website http://www.cerhb.ufl.edu/education-center, or contact Tamara Mandell at tmandell@cerhb.ufl.edu. For information on upcoming FLATE’s biotechnology summer camp for high school teachers in Florida visit www.fl-ate.org, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org.