When the Scripps Research Center opens its new campus in South Florida, it will need more than scientists to do its biomedical research.
St. Petersburg College hopes its graduates fill some of those Palm Beach County positions, ranging from lab and animal technicians to administrative assistants.
Scripps will have a ripple effect on Florida's community college system, state Education Commissioner Jim Horne said Tuesday.
More schools will need to produce students well-educated in math and science. That, in turn, will drive the community college system to tailor programs better suited to would-be scientists.
"To drive the economy, you need to make a strategic assessment and research," Horne said.
Horne held a conference call with community college chancellor David Armstrong, representatives from Scripps, several community colleges and news reporters from around the state.
"Anything that would encourage young students to pursue science and high-level mathematics would be a very good thing. I think Scripps could be that one thing that excites young people to those types of careers."
Colleges normally adjust their programming in accordance to local, economic needs, but working with Scripps will be slightly different, said Carl Kuttler, president of St. Petersburg College.
SPC might adjust an existing program or arrange with the University of South Florida to put students on a track to earn a doctorate in the sciences from a graduate school run by Scripps, Kuttler said.
Kuttler said he is "eager to get in on the ground floor" with the research firm.
"I've felt for the last three hours that I have almost been in a scientific Disney World," Kuttler said after touring Scripps' centers. "I believe the Florida education system will be experiencing many side benefits from this venture."
Kuttler, Armstrong, Horne and several other community college presidents flew to San Diego for a tour of Scripps' centers and to take notes on opportunities for Florida schools.
Armstrong is confident the state will come up with the money needed to enhance the community college system, if need be.
The company won't reserve jobs for Florida's community college graduates, but thinks Florida's schools can easily fulfill its educational needs, said Jeffery Kelly, vice president of academic affairs and dean of graduate programming for Scripps.
Kelly anticipates businesses spinning off from Scripps will have a need for math and science-oriented graduates. "These people have to have an associate's level education," said Kelly, who also said the majority of Scripps' 3,000 employees will have doctorate and medical degrees. Of those, some 500 jobs will be for employees with less-advanced degrees.
Scripps plans to serve as a scientific catalyst for the state education system and will collaborate with state universities to provide joint degree programs.