Southern Tech Biotech program first to pilot BACE test in Oklahoma

By: Stephen Lamar, The Daily Ardmoreite

A test making its way across the nation has found its way to Ardmore.

Biotechnology students at Southern Tech took the Biotechnician Assistant Credentialing Exam—an industry-reconginzed exam that is designed to test students on the foundational skills and knowledge of the industry. The two-part exam was created by the University of Florida’s Biotility division with the goal of creating a national industry standard for certification, which currently doesn’t exist.

“They needed a measurable way of showing that students that have been through Biotechnology program have the specific set of skills necessary and not just knowledge base,” Fiona McAlister, Southern Tech Biotechnology instructor, said of the exam.

The exam has found its way across the country after being vetted by BioFlorida, Florida’s state Bioscience Industry Organization.

Southern Tech served as the pilot for the exam in Oklahoma, being the first institution to give the exam in the state.

The exam consists of an online three-hour theoretical test and a three-hour practical section where students are tasks with performing the core skills of being a biotech assistant. The practical exam includes creating solutions, interrupting data and problem solving in application based questions. McAlister said the practical aspect of the test is what made the test particularly interesting. The Southern Tech program has always had practical exams as part of the curriculum.

“It’s not just can you do this but it tests if this result occurs can you trouble shoot and figure out what has gone wrong,” she said. “So you have to have an understanding to be able to do that.”

Once a student passes the test, which has 63 percent national pass rate, they receive a BACE certificate and a letter to present to their employer explaining the benefits of hiring BACE-certified students. Without a certification, McAlister said potential employers only have word of mouth or research to go off of when considering a candidate. With a certification, students have a standardized representation and endorsement of their abilities.

“The students gets to show that they have this knowledge and understanding of what they’re doing but also that they can apply it,” she said.

McAlister said part of the challenge of creating a national certification is the variety of Biotech industry. Biotechnology students can branch into pharmaceuticals, the medical field, bioagriculture and other potential sectors. The BACE-certification, McAlister said, answers that problem by testing the core values of the industry, which can be applied through any of the branches.

With several states already looking to the test, McAlister said she believes it is catching wind.

“I think pretty quickly it’s going to be nationally adopted,” she said. “It has the pieces that everyone is looking for.

“No matter what path way they go down this is a common skill set that they would have to have in any employ setting. These kids will be able to hit the ground running.”

McAlister said 48 Southern Tech students were given the test along with a few students from other career techs. A former student from Indiana flew in to take the exam as well, citing the need for a certification in searching for a job. The former student passed the test and told McAlister “this will change my life.” The other students were also excited to pass the rigorous exam.

“I’ve never seen a reaction like that in a high school kid,” McAlister said. “When they were told they passed this they were thrilled.”

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Biotility at the University of Florida is committed to providing high-quality education and training to facilitate the professional growth of each participant. Our short-courses are attended by professionals, students preparing to enter industry careers, and researchers, all of whom seek to expand and deepen their knowledge in technical and regulatory details unique to biotechnology industries and translational research.