Because contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) focus on the development and execution of current good manufacturing practices
(cGMP), they require employees with a combination of skill sets such as those of a scientist, engineer, and mechanic. These
employees also must possess a clear understanding of the drug cGMPs and work within that structure. CMOs often face difficulties
hiring such staff, however. As a result, they need specific strategies to address this challenge.
John W. Dobiecki
Research and development (R&D) based biopharmaceutical and pharmaceutical companies are generally located in areas where there
is a high concentration of colleges and universities. These educational institutions not only help feed the discovery and
development pipelines with ideas and potential new products, but also provide a steady stream of young, talented individuals
with advanced degrees, whose focus is R&D activities. CMOs, on the other hand, don't need to be, nor necessarily want to be,
in these clusters of R&D activity. The high costs of operation in such clusters would hurt the CMO's ability to provide competitive
As a result, CMOs are often located in areas that are one to two hours driving distance from academic clusters. Unfortunately,
these locations often don't have the same pool of young talent available in the cluster areas because of the lower number
of colleges to draw from. Thus, in choosing these locations the main challenge for the CMO is to develop a pool of talented
CMOs can always go out and recruit seasoned personnel to fill some positions. However, there will always be a need for additional
employees drawn primarily from the local area. A company can take a proactive approach to assure the availability of local
talent. It requires time, effort, and financial support. If done correctly, this effort has an almost immediate payback.
One approach a CMO could follow is to become an active member of professional societies that promote regional educational
programs. One good example is the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council's (MBC) BioTeach program. This program has a "MobileLab"
bus that visits local high schools. It provides an opportunity for the local industries to directly interact with high school
students and educate them about the opportunities the industry has to offer.
A CMO could also partner with a local community college to develop a program that provides additional curriculum specific
to a cGMP manufacturing operation. For example, Microtest became involved with Springfield Technical Community College and
helped co-develop its biotech program. The support of this program, through equipment donations, instruction, and curriculum
guidance—has provided Microtest with a steady stream of excellent entry-level employees skilled in many of the laboratory
operations routinely performed in the industry.
Another option is for a CMO to develop a good internship program with regional colleges and universities. If the students
perform well, the company can invite them back the following year. This offers the students certainty of employment the following
summer and provides the company with a trained summer staff. It also gives the student an opportunity to easily transition
to full-time employment after graduation.
A company's committed involvement with local educational institutions provides students with career guidance and a clearer
understanding of the opportunities this industry has to offer. Ultimately, the participating companies gain a solid pool of
potential employees ready to step in and become active contributors.
John W. Dobiecki is the vice president and general manager of Microtest Laboratories, Inc., Agawam, MA, 413.439.1120,