STEM workshop equips youth to enter the pharma workforce

Here at Roche, it’s in our DNA to look to the future and create solutions today that will help patients and others in the healthcare ecosystem. It’s our very purpose statement - Doing now what patients need next. This forward-thinking approach applies not only to how we work, but also in how we interact with the communities around us. Within all aspects of our environment, we aim to help build a better future for everyone. 

One way we do this is by supporting the next generation of innovators to equip them with skills and knowledge they need to enter the ever-changing and fast-paced world of healthcare. A team within Roche’s Pharma Technical (PT) division, known as the FutureLab, offers programs for students with this goal in mind. 

At the end of 2020, the FutureLab virtually hosted 27 high school students from 10 schools across the GTA for its 2nd Annual STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workshop. While most students believe a STEM career path in healthcare leads to becoming a doctor, there are many other opportunities for meaningful careers with impact that they can explore. 

The High School STEM workshop introduces students to alternative career paths and offers a broader picture of what they can pursue with a STEM education,” explains Blaire Lam-Greene, Senior Technical Manager in Roche PT, and FutureLab co-founder. “We encourage participants to consider these different opportunities and begin preparing them with the technical skills they will need for success.”

The FutureLab works witha not-for-profit organization that helps youth in under-served communities achieve success beyond high school, to recruit students. “The Roche STEM events allow students to achieve a level of social equity through external programs that are not usually available, and gives our vibrant youth tools to flourish despite systemic barriers to education,” says Hamza Furmli, Program Manager, BridgeTO. “Exposing our youth to companies like Roche also gives them insight towards the incredible opportunities that are at their fingertips with a background in STEM.”

Edris Dormuli and Radiya Abdirahman are two students who participated in the STEM workshop, which included team-building activities, educational sessions covering PT topics such as Lead Production System and Quality Risk Management, and exercises to apply their learnings and new skills to a practical real-life decision making problem. 

“Ever since I was young I had a burning passion for the biological and environmental sciences, and participating in this workshop allowed me to discover careers in STEM that I never knew of before,” explains Edris. “The workshop delved into quality assurance, management and the business perspectives of science, allowing me to understand the wide range of opportunities in STEM.” 

For Radiya, who has a passion for neuroscience and the nervous system, the STEM event was a way to step out of her comfort zone and work collaboratively with the other students. “The biggest learning that I took away from the Roche STEM workshop was the power of teamwork and communication. It was really fun and engaging to trust and work together to complete tasks.”

Following the workshops, students collaborated and connected their learnings to assess 28 hypothetical manufacturing sites and recommend their top four choices - something Roche PT employees do on a daily basis.

“The students started the day not knowing a lot about the world of pharma but by the end of the workshop, they showed a greater understanding and applied highly sought-after skills to a common problem within PT,” noted Blaire. “We were thrilled to see the impact this event had on participants and very proud to give back to this community. It’s exciting to think about what they’ll do next - their futures are certainly bright!” 

Sammer Haq, BridgeTO Youth Founder added “Each individual BridgeTO Youth student has a unique background to match their vibrant personalities and ambitious dreams. Given the right support through our program, as well as industry exposure through sponsors such as Roche, we are able to see our students achieve new heights in pursuing their academic and career dreams.”
“I hope to do research in the field of neuroscience and become a neuroscientist. There’s so much to learn in this field and so many things to discover that I’m intrigued about,” said Radiya. Meanwhile, Edris aspires to be part of research projects in life, health and environmental sciences. “My ultimate goal is to become an epidemiologist in the future. Roche’s STEM workshop instilled confidence in me and encouraged me to explore the vast range of careers in STEM that I never would have discovered without this opportunity.”

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