Hazelwood-Based bioMérieux Forms Partnership with Ranken Tech College

Three years ago, bioMérieux’s research and development production center in Hazelwood and Ranken Technical College formed a micro enterprise partnership. The success of this partnership was touted recently at a mini job fair and screening of a documentary, “American Made Movie,” on the school’s campus.

The program offers manufacturing internships to Ranken students, giving them a chance to get paid a part-time wage each week for twenty hours of work.

Vince Holtmann, Faculty Project Manager – Education and Manufacturing Cooperative for Ranken Technical College, said that 45 students have gone through this program since its inception three years ago. Nine students are currently employed part-time for this project with plans to add up to two more students in the near future. Student responsibilities include the assembly and testing of high-tech medical electronic sub-components for bioMérieux.  Students primarily work on two of bioMérieux’s products, the Vitek 2 and Bac-T Alert System, which are produced at the Hazelwood plant.

A unique feature of these internships is that students can perform the work for Ranken’s micro enterprise partners on campus. It cuts down on their commute time to and from work, reduces the amount of money they spend on putting gas in the car, and offers flexibility to their schedules. Students can work before classes, between classes, and/or after classes.

bioMérieux made a decision to enter into this partnership with Ranken Technical College instead of outsourcing the work. “Because of the great success we’ve experienced with this partnership, other micro enterprise manufacturing internship programs are opening up and becoming a part of our three-tiered win-win-win strategy at Ranken,” said Holtmann. “It’s a win for industry, a win for Ranken – but even more importantly – it’s a win for the students who work their way through school part-time while gaining valuable hands-on experience in a modern manufacturing environment.”

Including bioMérieux, Ranken has established six micro enterprise partnership programs for its students with local companies. The other five include Ehrhardt Tool and Machine, Emerson, Hunter Engineering, JM&A, as well as an automotive restoration project.

In the past, the focus has been on offering a four-year university education or an on-the-job apprenticeship to help students develop job skills for the 21st century workplace. Ranken believes there is a third option for students interested in training for a technical career that offers them good paying jobs – a two-year technical education curriculum in combination with a manufacturing internship component.

“Forward thinking companies, like bioMérieux, are getting on board with this model and reaping the benefits by having better trained employees for the next generation of America’s workforce. Establishing education and manufacturing partnerships can help keep and attract good manufacturing jobs in the St. Louis area,” Holtmann noted.

In the 1980s when McDonnell Douglas (now known as Boeing) was heavily involved in NASA’s International Space Station program, it started developing microbiology diagnostic systems to use on different space missions. McDonnell later decided not to continue as an electronic medical device manufacturer and spun-off a separate company called Vitek Systems, Inc. It chose Hazelwood as its home base because of the close proximity to McDonnell. bioMérieux later acquired Vitek Systems, Inc., through a company merger.

A French-owned company, bioMérieux has been a world leader in the field of vitro diagnostics over the past 50 years. The company is present in more than 150 countries through 41 subsidiaries and a large network of distributors. In 2012, revenues reached ¤1,570 million with 87 percent of sales outside of France.

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