State Secretary of Economic Development Yvonne Hao paid a visit to Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute’s Biotechnology Academy on Blackburn Center on Tuesday afternoon where she met 21-year-old David Trainor who told her the program has changed the trajectory of his life.

Trainor, a Littleton High graduate who had one year of community college under his belt before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, said he discovered the biotechnology academy, applied and recently moved to Gloucester. He’s training to become a life sciences lab technician.

“The two things I was the most scared of when I first started was, am I going to like the people and am I going to like the teachers?” Trainor said. He was not worried about the curriculum because he was excited about the hands-on science.

Now that he’s interviewing for an internship with top life sciences companies in the Boston and Cambridge area, “I’m worried now that I might have gotten spoiled with how just good this program is,” he said.

“This is by far the best educational experience I have ever had,” Trainor added.

“Congratulations, I’m so excited for your future,” Hao said.

“What this really is is second chances,” said state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, D-Gloucester, the vice chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, and an advocated for GMGI.

Hao said she was blown away by what she saw at the biotechnology academy, having heard about the program from Ferrante.

“Most of all, to me, David just brings it kind of to life. It is really, really remarkable what’s happening here,” Hao said.

With GMGI celebrating its 10th year, Hao made also made stops at GMGI’s harbor-side research institute on Main Street. She also visited Applied Materials on Dory Road.

The academy’s certificate program trains young adults with a high-school degree or an equivalency how to be life sciences lab techs in state-of-the art labs.

It’s seven months in the lab and in the classroom followed by a three-month paid internship at a life sciences company in Boston, Cambridge or at the likes of North Shore InnoVentures, a startup incubator in Beverly.

The academy this year is running two cohorts of 25 students each, with the first starting in August and the second in November. GMGI recently did away with tuition to lower the barrier to entry for students.

Ferrante said there at two parts to the academy’s skills development: one is developing technical skills at the bench using DNA sequencers or fermenters, and the other is developing a student’s maturity.

“Our employers tell us our students show up and not only do they have a thousand lab hours but they have a maturity and a presence that they are not seeing in even some of their undergraduate hires,” said GMGI Executive Director Chris Bolzan.

“It’s not just a schooling program, they teach you interpersonal stuff,” Trainor said. “They teach you finances, they teach you time management, they teach you organization which is all stuff that at a certain point becomes more important than, ‘Can you do the lab work?’ Can you do the lab work in a lab with other people and they teach you all of that.”

Kenn Turner, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, said part of his mission is to invest in workforce development and this is one of his favorite programs. The center has provided grants for state-of-the-art lab equipment at the academy in recent years.

He would like to see programs like this scaled up to meet the needs of life sciences companies in the coming years.

“I’m a firm believer that these are the types of the programs we need to support and double down on,” Turner said.

Ethan Forman may be contacted at 978-675-2714, or at

Ethan Forman may be contacted at 978-675-2714,or at

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