“The life science industry continues to be an engine for job creation at all levels of education and across multiple disciplines, with particular need for entry level technicians and managers with advanced experience, especially in regulatory and compliance functions.” This was among the findings of a recently issued report of the Coalition of State Biosciences Institutes (CSBI) and Booz & Company. Combining trend analysis data from across jobs-related websites with interviews of senior industry strategic leaders, the report identified a particularly strong need for knowledge workers. Hiring managers and industry leaders identified three categories of workforce capability needs:
1. Bachelor’s degree and graduate degree in life science disciplines such as chemistry and biology
2. Orientation toward the life science industry, with an understanding of industry-specific ways of working, such as compliance with FDA regulations, zero-defect quality systems, rigorous clinical studies, etc.
3. Soft skills and the ability to work across disciplines
The importance given by industry strategic leaders to soft skills was somewhat surprising. Leaders spoke about the needs for candidates who can apply their skills to real world situations, who have strong written and oral communications skills, and who have a market-based mindset vs. an academic mindset.
The report also emphasized the need for trained workers. The day of company-trained workers seems to have passed, even in large companies that historically have invested in workforce training. The trend of seeking employees who are sufficiently trained to “hit the ground running” was consistent across all company sizes.
Three capability gaps emerged from the study:
1. Employers are looking for a workforce with more breadth of experience. At present, they identified a surplus of over-specialized talent.
2. Academic programs are training students by discipline. The desired problem-solving proficiency typically requires cross-disciplinary skills and capabilities.
3. There is a mismatch of awareness of career opportunities and employer needs.

The Coalition of State Bioscience Institutes plans to use this study, and annual in-depth studies hereafter, as a key tool in their work with legislators, economic development staff, teachers, and other stakeholders to advocate for state and federal funding for training for in-demand jobs in the life science industry.
Source: Demand for Talent: Current & Projected Workforce Trends in the Life Science Industry. Coalition of State Bioscience Institutes and Booz & Company. 2013.

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