By Harvey Yau, senior science director, Global BPO Center of Excellence, Kelly Services
One of the most vexing and common problems HR professionals face is acquiring and training talent for specific skilled positions, only to see that talent, and the time and money invested in them, walk out the door too soon.
Scenarios like this have often impacted the global life sciences industry negatively. Let’s examine the issue and explore a solution — one that has the potential to increase productivity and employee retention.
Research at www.biospace.com indicates life sciences companies are expected to hire 5.2 percent more new graduates from the Class of 2016 than they hired from the Class of 2015. Generally, nearly 25 percent of all posted job listings are at entry level, requiring zero to two years of experience. Bachelor’s degree-level recent graduates will fill many of these jobs.
These graduates often find themselves assigned to repetitive tasks like quality control, bioprocessing, and manufacturing. Coming in, they may not have the up-to-date GMP training and requirements to be productive immediately. The problem is, close to 70 percent of these workers will leave before the eight-month mark. There are a lot of reasons why, but often it is that these well-educated workers have grown bored, they want a new challenge or a new title, or they feel they aren’t advancing fast enough. Their leaving undoubtedly creates an investment deficit that adversely affects both profits and productivity.
MATCHING TALENT WITH TASKS IS THE ANSWER
So there’s the crisis. Where’s the opportunity? The key is to hire and utilize your workforce more intelligently — finding motivated talent for these jobs with a degree and skill that more closely matches the tasks they need to perform. For the biotech industry, that talent is increasingly available with Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degrees.
Close to 6 percent of the 1,655 community colleges in the U.S. offer either biotechnology certificates or associate degree programs. That number should double within the next five years barring substantial state budget cuts, which typically fund community colleges. These life sciences education courses can be completed relatively quickly. And they give A.A. and A.S. biotechnology candidates experience with crucial hands-on equipment and GMP training through certificate programs that provide the industry skills needed to perform critical tasks that traditionally have fallen to those with Bachelor of Science degrees.
A biotechnology certificate program carries few prerequisites and offers a broad introduction into biotechnology. Most programs consist of about 15 to 25 credit hours and may be taken in two to four full-time semesters.
The courses include basic concepts of biotechnology, current manufacturing practices, the molecular basis of carcinogenesis, food biotechnology, biological computation, drug design, and targeting. A biotechnology certificate or diploma paves the way to a job as a laboratory or research technician. Graduates are trained in microscopy, cell culturing, GMP documentation, autoclaving, basic microbiology, and environmental monitoring. Best of all, these graduates are highly motivated; the retention rate of A.A. graduates from biotechnology programs is two to three times higher than scientists from conventional bachelor’s degree programs in biotechnology.
These students often are more mature or in their late 20s or early 30s and are looking for a different profession or career. They invest their own time and money in the effort. It’s not uncommon to see someone with this type of training and background last five, 10, or even 15 years instead of turning over in two years, which is common for more highly degreed workers. These folks want to build careers, not just have jobs.
If you want to give your company the chance to retain talent, don’t be afraid to look beyond habit-driven hiring practices and focus on needs-based models. Hiring from conventional undergraduate programs will never go out of style. But it may not always be your only path to achieving bottom-line success when it comes to acquiring the right people for the tasks at hand.