Saturday 5 August 2023

What are the Best Ways Pharma Can Fill the Skills Gap?


Pharmaceutical hiring is facing a severe skills shortage, but a few key strategies could help employers close the gap. By adjusting hiring practices and improving access to training, pharmaceutical companies can fill crucial roles while providing valuable jobs for thousands of people. What are the best tactics for filling the pharmaceutical skills gap? 


By Emily Newton


Fair and Flexible Experience Requirements

High barriers to entry in pharmaceutical hiring contribute to the skills shortage by keeping out candidates who may be skilled but lack experience. An increasing number of “entry-level” jobs require three or more years of experience, putting them out of reach of many actual entry-level candidates.


Employers can fill many positions left open by the skills gap by reconsidering the minimum required experience. This strategy is ideal for low-level jobs where on-the-job training would be feasible.


Applicants may have experience in other industries, have informal experience, be recent graduates or have an unfinished degree. Giving these applicants a chance may help fill many crucial roles while providing valuable career opportunities.


There is evidence for the effectiveness of rapid training programs, as well. For example, coding bootcamps have transformed hiring in computer science and cybersecurity roles.


Surveys show 31.7% of hiring managers have hired a coding bootcamp graduate, and 72.2% say those graduates performed as well or better than employees with a traditional bachelor’s degree. Interestingly, 71% of hiring managers specifically reported that coding bootcamp graduates were better at learning new skills quickly.


This data indicates that the type of job candidates who succeed in rapid training programs often have highly advantageous underlying skills or traits that can make them great employees. Furthermore, a lack of experience doesn’t necessarily mean an employee is less capable or skilled than someone with more experience.

Apprenticeship Programs and International Hiring

Apprenticeship programs are ideal for addressing pharmaceutical hiring because of today’s high need for specialized skill sets. Many university programs struggle to keep up with the rapid pace of change, leaving graduates ill-equipped to meet skill and experience requirements.


Apprenticeship programs close the gap by providing graduates with valuable skills and allowing employers to train employees for the exact skills they need. Running an apprenticeship program requires some investment, but it could pay off significantly for the entire industry.


A single job vacancy can cost thousands of dollars per month, with skills shortages overall costing businesses $8.5 trillion in the U.S. by 2030. In contrast, consider an apprenticeship program paying a recent graduate or graduate student for living expenses and a monthly stipend. Within six to twelve months, this student could learn the specialized skills the employer needs while also working for them.


The cost of paying for that student’s training through an apprenticeship could pay itself off within a year, especially if the apprentice continues working for their employer for several years afterward. Job loyalty is much more likely in a scenario like this, where employers show how much they value employees by investing in their careers.

Creating Opportunities for International Applicants

Pharmaceutical hiring managers can use apprenticeships to tap into hiring pools outside their usual range. For example, a pharmaceutical company might create an apprenticeship program in collaboration with a foreign university to provide immersive study-abroad opportunities. Students could experience another culture while learning valuable career skills and potentially securing a job.


International hiring requires some extra preparation, although it may be worth it to help close the skills gap by bringing talented people where they are needed most. That could even apply to domestic employees who may be able to fill a skills shortage at another office within the same company.


A robust global mobility strategy can improve retention rates by reducing geographic barriers to employment. Those barriers can be particularly challenging for students and recent graduates who may want to take a pharmaceutical job but lack the financial ability to relocate.

Collaboration with Universities

Working with universities can be a great long-term strategy for resolving pharmaceutical hiring challenges. Recent, ongoing innovations in the industry are making it challenging for university professors and resources to keep up. Many advanced technologies and pieces of equipment are completely beyond the financial reach of many educational institutions.


As a result, many new graduates are entering the pharmaceutical hiring pool with outdated skills and a lack of important specialized skills. Collaborating with universities to expand access to equipment, processes and resources could help resolve this issue. This could come in the form of apprenticeship programs built specifically for university students, much like an internship.

Reskilling, Upskilling and Mentorships

For people already working in the pharmaceutical industry, reskilling, upskilling and mentorships are the best option for addressing skill gaps. This typically includes workplace training programs focused on building new skills in existing employees, often with the goal of transitioning to a new role at the same company.


Reskilling and upskilling are good for employees as well as pharmaceutical companies. Studies show that skill building programs result in higher employee satisfaction and retention. Reskilling and upskilling may help prevent employees from quitting and worsening the industry’s labor shortage.


The main difference between reskilling and upskilling is the gap between an employee’s current and new roles. For instance, a pharmaceutical company might train an IT team member to work in AI process modeling. This would be upskilling since the IT team member is still working in a related role.


Reskilling is ideal for retaining workers if their current job becomes obsolete. For instance, a pharmaceutical manufacturer could reskill assembly line workers to become robotics technicians or programmers. Both reskilling and upskilling can resolve skill gaps, just in different ways.

Resolving Pharmaceutical Hiring Challenges

Pharmaceutical hiring managers are grappling with a serious skills shortage due to rapid innovation and change in the industry. Luckily, there are a few robust strategies employers can use to close the gap and get the skilled workforce they need. Expanding access to training and resources for both new and existing employees is the key to resolving the skills shortage today and in the long term.


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