Beyond the Sun and the Surf: A look at Florida's Biomedical Industry

Florida is not all about the sun, the sand and the surf. The state is emerging as a strong hub for biomedical  industries. This shift in focus is steering the state’s economic engine in a new direction, and industry leaders and educators are taking steps to address the educational as well as workforce needs of a new and emerging sector.

The Biomedical Quality Systems and Digital Design and Modeling certificate at St. Petersburg College (SPC) is a direct response to local industry needs, and establishes Florida’s efforts to redefine and diversify its economy. The Biomedical Quality Systems is a 24 credit hour specialty within the A.S degree in Engineering Technology. The program was developed for the Medical Device Industry Education Consortium Project under the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Consortium Program to meet critical industry-specific educational needs in quality assurance, and present the regulatory and quality standards that are required for the medical device industry.

Courses are FDA approved and include regulatory compliance in biomedical systems; risk management for biomedical product development and production; medical device design and manufacturing; quality audits for biomedical systems, and document and data management control. Other courses include concepts of lean and six sigma, and coaching self-directed work teams. Co-op work experience is also required for the specialty. Completion of the first five courses prepares students for the medical quality systems certificate which is a 15 credit hour certificate.

The Digital Design and Modeling certificate is another specialty that involves AutoCAD and SolidWorks. It is a 24-hour credit program that also falls under the ET degree. Students can take six classes in AutoCAD and SolidWorks along with a course in Lean Six Sigma, and couple that with CO-OP work experience. The certificate prepares students for entry-level positions that complement engineering activities of industry and consultants in planning, designing, and detailing. Curriculum frameworks were developed in Fall 2009, and received approval in Spring 2010.

Brad Jenkins, program director for engineering technology at SPC says the programs “provide current/incumbent workers with an opportunity to upgrade their skills and directly apply these learned skills in the workforce.” Indeed, both programs address industry-specific needs. The digital design and modeling program is aligned with the AutoCAD and SolidWorks industry certifications, and is specially designed for people who want to pursue careers in planning, designing and detailing.

As part of an effort to streamline and refine the program, Jenkins is currently working on developing a national certification as well as a national center for medical devices at SPC. The school also plans to establish an AutoCAD and SolidWorks testing site this spring, is developing a fourth course in design and analysis, and is working with the State College of Florida to adopt the frameworks for the Digital Design and Modeling certificate program. Jenkins says the best part about these programs is that students can get a certificate that enables them to earn an A.S. degree, and opens prospect for better jobs at supervisory-level positions. “I look forward to working with a number of colleges around the state to adopt these specializations as part of their curriculum frameworks” Jenkins said.

The Biomedical Quality Systems and the Digital Design and Modeling program are part of the A.S. degree in engineering technology. The ET degree prepares students and incumbent workers for employment and/or additional training in the manufacturing, medical, electronics, aerospace, or other related industries. This degree is a planned sequence of instruction consisting of the four specializations in electronics, quality, digital design & modeling, and biomedical systems with one common core. Graduates can transfer to universities offering the B.S. degree in engineering technology.

For more information contact Brad Jenkins at (727) 341-4378, or visit

Watch this YouTube video on Florida as the new hub for life sciences, biomedical and biotechnology industries.

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