The STEM workforce plays a critical role in driving innovation across numerous industries. This in turn supports economic growth. Further, nearly all segments of the biopharmaceutical industry – from discovery and development to manufacturing and delivery – rely upon highly skilled workers. However, biopharmaceutical executives continue to voice their frustrations with recruiting and hiring top talent in this field.
Data supports the validity of these concerns. In 2015, the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte released a report on the widening skills gap.* The report predicts that “Between 2015 and 2025, U.S. manufacturers will require about 3.4 million new workers. An estimated 60 percent of those positions, or 2 million jobs, are likely to remain vacant due in large part due to a growing U.S. gap in STEM-related skills in the workforce. Eighty-four percent of surveyed executives agree that a talent shortage has become a critical issue.”
The problem affects not only the tech field, but the economy as a whole. Other countries continue to make leaps and bounds in these industries by investing in STEM education. In the US, college students are less likely to choose STEM majors than students in competing nations. But the problem can be traced back to elementary school, as even the youngest US-based students display a lack of proficiency in STEM-related subjects as compared to international competitors.
This lack of training, combined with lack of interest, leaves the tech field scrambling for proficient job candidates within a limited labor pool. In particular, biopharmaceutical manufacturing is more deeply affected, as the industry employs more than four times the usual number of STEM workers, relative to other industries.
As one would imagine, the biopharmaceutical industry is well aware of this growing gap in the workforce and has begun taking measures to turn the tide. These companies engage with the education system at every level to foster student interest in STEM fields and to encourage achievement. As well, industry leaders recognize the critical role played by well-trained teachers and have begun partnering directly with schools.
Some of the efforts currently underway include:
- Biopharmaceutical companies have created 75 educational programs across various institutions
- Support and engagement throughout the postsecondary pipeline, from certification and associate’s programs to masters and doctoral programs
- Partnerships with universities that include industry advisory boards, student internships, and donating/developing facilities and equipment
- Funding scholarships for postsecondary students
- Providing research experiences
- Training teachers
- Providing customized worker training
- Fostering diversity within the STEM fields
Where gaps in the education system do exist, biopharmaceutical companies have stepped in to provide direly needed support, opportunities, and motivation. The hope is that we can soon reverse the STEM workforce gap, allowing for talent to thrive and innovation to move forward – for the industry, the economy, and the health of the nation.
*The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, “The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing 2015 and Beyond,” 2015.