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Rita C. Peters is editorial director of BioPharm International, Pharmaceutical Technology, and Pharmaceutical Technology Europe.
Demand for specific advanced laboratory skills creates a positive employment market.
Before the pandemic hit, the life-sciences market was growing at a quick pace, creating a shortage of talent in development and manufacturing, says John Ebeid, senior vice-president, Randstad Life Sciences, a human Resources solutions firm. The onset of the pandemic “has amplified the need for the new roles that have come up because of what we are trying to do in combatting the virus,” he says.
The pandemic has created a demand for people with life sciences, biologic, and chemical training. Jobs that require cellular or molecular biology and knowledge of the techniques and methods used—polymerase chain reaction, gel electrophoresis, cell culture, cell purification, RNA and DNA extraction—have been “in extraordinary demand,” for developing vaccines and for diagnostic testing, Ebeid says.
For entry-level laboratory positions, companies are seeking candidates with at least an associate degree in life sciences or physical sciences and some experience, certifications, or licensure. For positions that require work with advanced techniques, employers typically expect candidates to have a bachelor’s, Master’s, or doctorate degree.
The need for skilled laboratory technicians to process COVID-19 diagnostic tests is high, especially areas with large populations, says Ebeid. And with other markets beyond biopharmaceutical development and diagnostic testing also seeking qualified bench scientists, the demand for people with good laboratory practice, good manufacturing practice, quality assurance, and quality control expertise is high.
“With demand being as high as it is, companies are bringing in people that don’t have exactly the skill set, then are trying to upscale them once they come in,” Ebeid says. “It is definitely a talent-driven market,” says Ebeid, when looking at “the sheer number of openings versus the candidates that are out there.” This competition allows candidates to demand higher salaries when going into new positions.
With some non-executive roles taking more than 100 days to fill, Ebeid says Randstad advises employers to weigh the impact that open positions have on the company and make the most competitive offers they can when hiring for crucial positions, knowing other businesses are competing for the same candidates.
Rita Peters is editorial director of BioPharm International.