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BOCES gears up to launch new pharmaceutical technician program

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CANTON — A new program scheduled to kick off next school year aims to prepare high school students for the growing number of jobs in the pharmaceutical field.

The pharmaceutical technician program is being developed by the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services, which hopes to offer the course at all three of its career and technical education centers starting in September.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” said Renee J. Langtry-Green, BOCES director of career and technical education. “This program will make certain that students could be both college-and-career-ready just out of high school. Students will be able to go out into the workforce or continue on with their education after following this path.”

Enrollment numbers will determine whether BOCES has enough students to run the program at all three centers: Northwest Tech in Ogdensburg, Southwest Tech in Gouverneur, and Seaway Tech in Norwood.

The one-year program includes 450 hours of instruction to prepare students for the national certification exam administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board.

“It will be a challenging program, a quality program,” BOCES Superintendent Thomas R. Burns said. “It will provide a very articulated path to a career.”

As in other BOCES career and tech programs, students would leave their home district for half the day to attend classes at one of the tech centers.

“We’re hoping to have 12 to 15 students enrolled in the program at each of the centers,” Ms. Langtry-Green said, noting that if those projections aren’t met the program may not be available initially at all three sites.

Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists in preparing medication and providing other health care products to patients.

They can work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, health care clinics, retail stores and outpatient centers. Other job opportunities include Internet pharmacies, mail-order pharmacies and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Successfully completing this program may inspire a student to pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree in pharmaceutical science or a doctorate in pharmacy, Ms. Langtry-Green said.

Earlier this school year, BOCES administrators were approached by officials from ProAct Inc. and its parent company, Kinney Drugs Inc., Gouverneur. ProAct is a pharmacy benefit management company launched by Kinney in 1999.

ProAct President David B. Warner said the mail order segment of the company has grown from three employees eight years ago to 40 today.

“We anticipate that growth doubling within the nex two to three years,” Mr. Warner said. “Obviously, we’ll need technicians to help.”

The mail order business is handled at the company’s Gouverneur facility. Among other services, the business provides 90-day supplies of maintenance medication to customers.

At ProAct, average starting pay for pharmacy technicians is $12.25 per hour, Mr. Warner said, noting that wages are generally higher for employees who have their techncian certification.

Kinney also needs employees with pharmacy skills to work in its retail stoes, he said.

Ms. Langtry-Green said ProAct plans to expand the pharmaceutical mail order service portion of its business and will be looking to hire people to fill the jobs. Kinney officials indicated they have openings for trained pharmaceutical technicians in their retail stores.

“This was unique because they approached us,” Mr. Burns said. “My understanding is they are going to ramp up their business in Gouverneur and will have immediate employment needs for support and technical staff.”

He said Gouverneur Central School District has been particularly supportive of having BOCES start the pharmacy technician program.

“What’s really great is that pharmacy technician jobs are readily available in our area,” Gouverneur Superintendent Lauren F. French said. “It’s important that as a community we work to attract bright young people to stay in the area.”

To help develop a program here, Ms. Langtry-Green said, she traveled to Long Island, where she visited a BOCES center that offers the program.

Student course work will cover a variety of topics, such as pharmaceutical law and ethics, terminology, calculation of medication dosages, drug interaction and infection control.

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