How to tackle skills shortage in the life sciences sector?
Increasing specialisation and expansions of life sciences and medical companies have led to an increase in demand for high-skilled jobs in the sector in India, but supply is not keeping pace.
According to Randstad Sourceright's 2022 life sciences and pharma Talent Trends report, a third (33%) of C-suite and human capital leaders in the life sciences and pharmaceuticals sector say talent scarcity is a major pain point for the sector, which is hiring extensively this year.
As a recession-proof business and one of the few sectors which saw its employment base expand during the pandemic, life sciences saw Covid-19 contributing to skyrocketing demand for a broad variety of technology skills. Organisations have seen the demand for data scientists grow as they work to bring new innovations to market.
At the same time, life sciences businesses are increasingly competing with the IT and communications sector for engineers and other tech skills as they work to develop new vaccine and diagnostic technologies. Many of these companies are refocusing on other areas of development in emerging fields like bioinformatics and medtech, which will require high-demand tech talent to execute.
The report further highlights that faced with a skills gap, 67% of life sciences and pharma leaders say reskilling and upskilling their current employees for new roles is an effective way to address talent shortages.
Increasingly, recruiters are focusing on industry-specific skills as well as the educational qualifications of the potential candidates.
Pankaj Joshi , director - commercial marketing, research solution at Merck Life Science says multiple factors, including fast-changing job roles and the need to keep oneself updated about the latest in the industry, are driving this change in outlook among employers.
“The future of work in the industry will be about well-rounded job skills obtained from both an academic education and training,” he adds.
Academic knowledge and its application complement each other. However, all too often, it so happens that academically successful candidates lack the skills to implement the knowledge they have to solve real-world problems, especially within a short time frame, says Joshi. He stresses that academics are vital for providing a strong conceptual base, but industry requires that one adapts fast to the rapidly changing market demands.
“The chasm between traditional academic qualifications and the needs of the industry has to be bridged,” he adds.
To this end, the industry is investing large amounts of time and money in creating valuable human capital honed for the needs of the industry, building on the knowledge base of talented individuals imparted by their academic upbringing. Joshi says this process needs acceleration to create a large enough pool of such individuals; thus, there needs to be closer cooperation between industries, educational institutions and skill development models.
“Since the government is heavily invested in Indian academics, funding a substantial part of it, it should implement initiatives to provide adequate industry training for biotech and life science students,” he adds.
Merck India has established a high-end skill development lab and innovation lab with the same goal.
“Our skills development programmes aim to create a trained workforce for the firm and sustainable growth of Indian scientific research, staying competitive in the rapidly expanding and evolving market. Merck's skill development centre augments the efforts by the government in this direction, which bodes well for the future career prospects of the student fraternity,” Joshi addes.
“The Covid-19 downturn gives us ample reason to act at scale and act now to take advantage of the increasing demand for skilled life science professionals,” he notes.