“Jobs of the Future” is a series focusing on career paths, local job opportunities, programs, and tales of success that highlight North Bay's diverse job market.
One of the newest businesses in North Bay was born out of necessity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Strato Labs offers local, private molecular diagnostic testing of individuals, staff, employers and locations for Sars-CoV-2 COVID-19, delivering reliable detection & same day results. When offsite lab-based testing isn’t easily accessed, or there simply isn’t time, our point-of-care saliva PCR, rapid antigen, and LAMP tests fill the immediate gap and get people back to work and daily life sooner, all by way of Health Canada approved testing technology,” according to the company's Business Summary.
Located on Main Street in North Bay the labs’ number one priority was making sure the local film sector can continue operating.
“Mostly they have been catering to the film industry and other private clientele,” says Michelle Bos, a Laboratory Technologist.
“Here in North Bay, I’ve been doing mostly PCR testing for COVID-19 with that industry.”
Bos, who attended Chippewa Secondary School says she was always interested in science as a general topic.
“The scientific methods and even the nitty gritty boring statistics part, that was very interesting to me,” she says.
Bos did an advanced diploma in Biotechnology at Canadore College before earning an undergraduate degree in Honours Specialization in Biology at Nipissing University.
“From there I got hired at the hospital to do COVID-19 specimens for the community. I just graduated in 2021 and when the job opened up with Strato Labs I thought to myself ‘well this is perfect because I’ve been doing this for a while already.’”
Bos says the COVID-19 pandemic spurred some changes for people who were in school for Bio-tech.
“It was an interesting time to go to school and get my degree. A lot of the people ended up getting jobs at the hospital or becoming full-time lab techs, when the degree was actually centred more around Research and Development. I think that, at least in my case, we pivoted a bit when the pandemic hit and started to go into a clinical lab to work and help where we could,” says Bos.
“It was a situation that was constantly evolving and we had to adapt as it happened and that gave us an opportunity to learn as we graduated and entered the workforce. I didn’t necessarily plan on going into Health Care, I was always more interested in Research and Development. It wasn’t a thought to really work directly on the frontline in that field, but during the pandemic, a lot of people pivoted.”
Strato Labs works within a quick turnaround time frame.
“We have people that go out and will swab for tests and then those specimens are transported back to the lab on Main Street and then I will perform those tests. I and another technician will check them, organize them, and set them up into runs,” says Bos.
“We get the results within the same day, the test itself usually takes around two-and-a-half hours, so it’s a pretty fast and efficient way to get results.”
Bos says it’s a big deal on set if there is a positive case and they have to shut down production. She adds as a North Bay native it is a welcome sight to see two previously unfamiliar industries in the Gateway City coming together and supporting each other.
“It’s very exciting to see these two different industries blossoming in North Bay and helping each other. When I went to Canadore, I came to realize that if you want to work in Research and Development, you were likely going to have to move out of North Bay, because there just wasn’t anything going on locally,” says Bos.
“That has changed now with companies like Strato Labs coming in. We are just now breaking into some Research and Development with hopefully a diagnostic test to help women who experience infertility and other issues. We’re excited to be breaking into that field.”
Bos says the hope is to build upon what they can offer in North Bay.
“It would be very exciting to continue building this industry right here in North Bay and expand on those offerings. There are a lot of graduates that come out of North Bay that could stay in the city if there was more research and development happening here, so that would be really great to have those opportunities for those students.”
Strato Labs is a Toronto-based organization that is offering COVID-19 tests locally, but as a company, it also provides wellness services.
“These kinds of tests are not available in North Bay right now, but it is something that would again help those students who are graduating, find jobs in this field in North Bay, should Strato Labs expand upon those services.”
As far as advice goes for those graduating students, Bos says, “Apply for the job, even if you are convinced that you are not going to qualify. And don’t be afraid to jump in and take initiative and figure out what works best. I think a lot of Lab Techs, when they first graduate are very intimidated by the lab, but honestly, I think you just need to jump in.”
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