MATC’s Critical Role in State’s Biohealth Industry Could Expand

College selected to participate in consortium seeking federal funding to bolster research and create jobs

Mark Feldmann,

October 09, 2023

MATC Regional Tech Hub team

MATC STEM instructors Christine Ryan, Ph.D., Jim Kerschen, Ph.D., and Lisa Conley, Ph.D.

I believe MATC is critical to the success in the state’s biohealth endeavors. We’re doing things in that space that are making a real impact.

Sheldon Garrison, Ph.D. MATC Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) instructor

The booming biohealth business in Wisconsin needs great workers. 

That’s where Milwaukee Area Technical College comes in. The college offers degrees and diplomas in programs critical to the state’s burgeoning biohealth industry: chemical technician, science processing technician, supply chain management and entrepreneurship. 


“All of these tie into the growth of jobs in biohealth. For this industry, MATC is a natural partner,” said Sheldon Garrison, Ph.D., a part-time Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) instructor at MATC since 2009. “The operations that we are preparing our students for are equal parts of the entire puzzle.”

MATC could soon enhance and expand its biohealth program offerings with federal funding that a recently-formed group of state colleges, businesses and economic development agencies is trying to secure.

The consortium includes MATC, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, BioForward Wisconsin, Exact Sciences Corporation, Accuray, Plexus, GE HealthCare, Rockwell Automation, WRTP Big Step, Employ Milwaukee, Madison Area Technical College, the University of Wisconsin System Administration, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Madison Regional Economic Partnership and Milwaukee7.

The consortium aims to have the federal Economic Development Administration designate Wisconsin as a regional tech hub — a collaborative effort designed to advance research in personalized medicine and biotechnology, and create jobs in the cutting-edge field. Personalized medicine uses an individual’s genetic profile to guide medical decisions about the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases.

“It is a great honor that MATC was selected to participate in this consortium,” said Christine Ryan, Ph.D., co-chair of MATC’s Biological Sciences program and an instructor since 2004. “Competition for funding is fierce, and the fact that we were sought out emphasizes MATC’s educational excellence and leadership in the field.  It is our hope that with this grant MATC can expand our efforts to train workers for this rapidly growing area of healthcare.”

The regional tech hub designation would also make Wisconsin eligible for $50 million to $75 million in federal funding through the 2022 CHIPS and Science Act. The state will know later this year if it will be invited to apply for this federal funding.

The MATC team working with the consortium includes STEM instructors Garrison, Ryan, Marie Colmerauer, Lisa Conley, Edward (Jim) Kerschen and Scott Schlipp.

Garrison, a health care and biotech expert who specializes in genetics and personalized medicine at Rogers Behavioral Health, suggested that by combining federal funding and strategic partnerships with other organizations, MATC could potentially expand its biohealth-related academic programs.

The college also will work with businesses in the consortium to assess labor needs, calibrate programs and deliver the skilled professionals to the workforce, Garrison said.

MATC has about 1,000 students in its STEM pathway, which includes about 30 degree, diploma and certificate programs, said Kamela J. Goodwyn, Ph.D., dean of the STEM pathway.

Learn  more about MATC’s Chemical Technician and Science Processing Technician programs at and

“Through this effort we are forging long-term agreements, collaborations and understandings with these companies so our students can look to these employers in the region and have roads to exceptional jobs that pay great salaries and have a profound positive impact on the future health care provided to all in need,” Dr. Garrison said. “I believe MATC is critical to the success in the state’s biohealth endeavors. We’re doing things in that space that are making a real impact.”

Plus, the next generation of jobs in the industry hasn’t even been developed yet, said Dr. Conley, an MATC STEM instructor for 19 years.  “No one really knows what could be down the road,” she said. “There will be opportunities in the future that we don’t have right now. The possibilities for growth and impact are very exciting. We need to be prepared for that.”

Wisconsin’s biohealth industry is large, diverse and prosperous, according to a 2022 report compiled by BioForward Wisconsin, which is also part of the consortium. Nearly 52,000 employees across the state — 15,000 in the Milwaukee region — earned an average annual salary of $96,000 in 2021, 70% higher than the state’s private sector average, the report said.

“The growth opportunity for Wisconsin in biohealth is immense,” the report said. “Wisconsin has both historical and current strengths in medical device, biopharmaceutical, and other manufacturing and this moment represents a genuine opportunity for the state to implement a ‘Made in Wisconsin’ initiative for the biohealth industry.”

Read about the regional tech hub program

About MATC: Wisconsin’s largest technical college and one of the most diverse two-year institutions in the Midwest, Milwaukee Area Technical College is a key driver of southeastern Wisconsin’s economy and has provided innovative education in the region since 1912. More than 28,000 students per year attend the college’s four campuses and community-based sites or learn online. MATC offers affordable and accessible education and training opportunities that empower and transform lives in the community. The college offers more than 180 academic programs — many that prepare students for jobs immediately upon completion and others that provide transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees with more than 40 four-year colleges and universities. Overwhelmingly, MATC graduates build careers and businesses in southeastern Wisconsin. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.