Roche, facing technician shortage, teams with UIndy to lure students

Faced with a looming shortage of skilled technicians to install and service its wide array of biomedical equipment in hospitals and laboratories, Roche Diagnostics is teaming up with the University of Indianapolis to offer customized training.

Roche announced the program Thursday morning, in tandem with the university and Ascend Indiana, the workforce-development arm of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership.

Roche has a network of about 1,000 biomedical equipment technicians in the United States who maintain lab equipment and provide customer service for scores of different medical instruments.

But many of them are nearing retirement age, and Roche said it often takes months to recruit and train new workers.

To boost the effort, the company is setting up what it calls the “Roche Academy” at the University of Indianapolis.

Roche said it hopes the program will produce 20 to 25 biomedical equipment technicians for the company a year.

Through the partnership, the university will recruit biology and chemistry students for the academy, where they will complete a customized curriculum path and summer internship at Roche.

During the last two years of the four-year program, students will have frequent interaction with Roche leaders and be assigned a mentor and make frequent visits to the huge corporate campus on the north side, where more than 3,000 people work at the headquarters for Roche Diagnostics North America and Roche Diabetes Care North America.

During the summer between their junior and senior years, the students will complete an internship with Roche.

In exchange, the students who complete the program will receive financial and educational incentives, including a job offer from Roche upon graduation. Starting salaries will be in the low- to mid-$50,000 range, said Bridget Boyle, vice president of human resources at Roche in Indianapolis.

“We’re trying to catch them very early in their career,” Boyle said. “Once we have them here, we want them to have a long career at Roche.”

Roche, Ascend and UIndy will be recruiting the first group of student in October, with the first classes estimated to start employment in 2020.

Roche estimates the program will cost the company about $670,000 a year.

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