JA BizTown Illumina Ribbon Cutting

Pictured from left to right San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Sanders, JA San Diego President & CEO Sidd Vivek, JA BizTown Alum Kyle, Illumina CFO Sam Samad, Councilmember Raul Campillo, Illumina Chief People Office Aimme Hoyt, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation Sr. VP Nikia Clarke, and Illumina Corporate Citizen Manager Vanessa Light. | Photo by Kristy Walker

On Tuesday, May 31, 2022, Junior Achievement of San Diego County (JA) held a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the Illumina shop in the McGrath Family JA BizTown.  

As the first biotechnology company in JA BizTown, the Illumina shop will connect young people to key career pathways in STEM early on. Through this new partnership, students will be introduced to a high-growth, leading industry in the San Diego economy. 

“The worker shortages that we face and the growth of our talent pipeline that we need, they don’t start in college or even high school. They start here. We want to introduce [students] to not just what has been, but the jobs of tomorrow and how to access them,” said JA President & CEO Sidd Vivek. 

As reported by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the innovation cluster of the San Diego economy requires the local talent pipeline to double the amount of new skilled workers in the workforce within the next ten years. It is critical that young people, especially from historically underserved communities, understand the opportunities available to them nd how to access these high-demand industries. 

At the JA BizTown Illumina shop, fourth- through sixth-grade students will learn about what it is like working for a biotech company. Students go through the job interviewing process to be placed in the roles of Chief Technology Officer, scientist, engineer, field scientist/liaison, and CEO/CFO. During the JA BizTown simulation, students are tasked with running the Illumina shop. Through this program experience, young people explore the day-in-the-life of a biotech company employee. 

“We are working to provide equitable access to both genomic and STEM education with the goal of 5 million STEM learners by 2030,” said Illumina CFO Sam Samad. “To do this, we are partnering with organizations that support educators and empower students to envision themselves as future scientists, innovators, and trailblazers in STEM. So, with our BizTown storefront, we wanted to mimic our actual labs here in San Diego.” 

By building intentional partnerships that connect business and education, young people will be exposed to the career possibilities in pivotal industries in their local economy. The objective is to provide the knowledge and skillsets to embolden young people to build thriving communities. 

Several local elected officials and their representatives were in attendance at the ribbon cutting, including Councilmember Raul Campillo, Senator Toni Atkins, Assemblymember Akilah Weber, and Supervisor Joel Anderson all of whom have expressed their ambitions in developing a robust, prosperous local economy. 

Through collaborative efforts with like-minded individuals and organizations, young people can become inspired for their futures and empowered to achieve success for themselves and their communities.