At the academy, students can complete an Associate in Science in Biomedical Engineering Technology completely free of charge while earning their high school diploma. The associate’s degree trains students to meet the growing need for biomedical equipment repairers, who maintain the sophisticated medical equipment on which the lives of patients depend.
The $9 million Future of Florida Critical Workforce Needs grant funded the addition of the BMET Academy. The grant supports workforce education programs in high-demand areas across the state.
Academy graduates will be prepared for careers in the hot job market, where they can earn an average salary of $49,910 in the United States, $47,130 in Florida and $46,620 in the Tampa Bay area.
“These are called ‘critical needs’ for a reason, and these are good paying jobs,” said Jackie Scrid, vice president of workforce development and corporate partnerships at SPC. “Our medical device field is upwards of $47,000 with just one certification, and if they get a four-year degree and some experience, that’s double that.”
The new academy joins SPC’s collegiate high school system, which opened its first charter school in 2004 on the college’s Gibbs High School campus. A North County option in Tarpon Springs opened in 2019, and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) High School in the college’s downtown center launched this fall.
The St. Petersburg Gibbs and Tarpon Springs campus locations were designated by the State of Florida as “A” schools for the 2021–22 school year. The St. Petersburg Gibbs location has earned an “A” from the state every year since the school opened.
“SPC has always been proud of our dual enrollment offerings, which include our collegiate high schools,” said Katherine Kennedy, Associate Vice President for Accelerated, Honors, International and UPC at SPC. “It is exciting to now expand access with BMET Academy. It will allow students to earn high school and college credit simultaneously for a faster track to employment at no cost to them or their families. This is another way by which SPC continues to serve its community.”
The associate’s degree in Biomedical Technology Engineering focuses on cyber security and technology such as electronic hardware used in medical equipment such as defibrillators, ventilators, patient monitors and imaging machines. Students take classes in electronics, computers, networking, and biology.
“Many of us have sat and looked at hospital monitors displaying the status of ourselves or our loved ones at some point. Or we’ve seen these monitors on television demonstrating their use in saving lives,” said Sydney Martin, SPC’s program director of engineering technology. “Every monitor, life support equipment and other critical equipment must work when it’s needed. Our students in Biomedical Engineering Technology are the people who keep the equipment running. Each Biomedical Engineering Technology graduate participates in providing health care to patients and participates as a member of the caregiving team, even though they often Do not work directly with patients.
BMET Academy will help build a pipeline of personnel who will work in diverse settings including healthcare, industry, research and academic institutions.
“Employment opportunities for technicians are expected to expand significantly over the next decade,” said Natavia Middleton, dean of natural sciences and engineering at SPC. “This program uses a combination of state-of-the-art technological equipment and experienced staff to help students learn. This will not only support students by providing them with the resources to excel, but will also provide opportunities to expand access to the health care sector in the future.” Will also build practices.
Brian Bell, faculty lead for SPC’s biomedical engineering technology programs, noted the strong career preparation provided by the program.
“You get the opportunity to explore health care technology with hands-on learning experiences and an internship, industry visits, professional association meetings and technical workshops by industry leaders in manufacturing medical technology,” he added. “With the credential you earn at SPC, you will be able to work in hospitals and medical device companies, often in information technology or electronics support technician groups in medical environments.”
The degree includes three optional stand-alone certificates, depending on the student’s area of focus, and SPC’s bachelor’s degree in technology development and management at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis or a bachelor of science in health care engineering technology management are transferred.
“We are really excited about creating another accelerated option for students at St. Petersburg Collegiate High School North Pinellas,” said Ryan Halstead, principal of Collegiate High School North Pinellas. “BMET program will provide students with another option to pursue career opportunities through education or to further their education opportunities through career path.”