by Heidi Riley
A report by industry group BioTalent Canada warns that the bioscience industry in Atlantic Canada is facing a severe labour shortage.
The report, called Close-up on the bio economy: Labour market intelligence, estimates that Atlantic Canada will need another 3,300 biotech workers by 2029. The report says there is not enough talent available to meet industry needs currently, and the problem will only get worse.
The report estimates that in 2019 there were about 900 companies active in Atlantic Canada’s bioeconomy, which collectively employed about 10,800 people, a third of whom were women.
For the full article by BioTalent Canada, click here.
On PEI, over 2,200 people work in the bioscience industry, and there are 61 bioscience companies in operation on the Island.
The PEI BioAlliance advertises about 350 open positions each year. The breakdown of opportunities is:
- Research/scientific roles: 20%
- Quality Assurance/Quality control roles: 15%
- Engineering/production roles: 50%
- Business administration roles: 15%
The Employment Journey spoke with Vivian Beer, Manager, HR Strategy, and Chelsey Rogerson, Director of Communications and Marketing with the PEI BioAlliance to find out more about the current supply of labour in PEI’s bioscience sector.
“The PEI BioAlliance has had a Bioscience Cluster HR Strategy in place since 2005, which we update every few years to reflect current and projected challenges and to ensure we are meeting our HR priorities within the bioscience community around recruitment, retention, HR support, skills development, and community outreach,” says Vivian. “We will be launching our next one soon.
“We are consistently in outreach mode and maintain a current database of contacts and resumés of those interested in PEI bioscience careers. Also, we have key contacts that we collaborate with who have connections to broad groups of talent.
“We help to match talent to company needs by encouraging job seekers to send us their resumés and reach out to us for one-to-one meetings. At the beginning of each year, we make a broad call for resumés that are added to an online resumé library, which is shared with hiring managers.
“As a result, overall, we have been doing relatively well meeting our recruitment needs,” says Vivian. “When I speak with PEI companies, they let me know that generally they are doing well with recruitment. According to my latest quarterly HR survey with PEI bioscience employers, more than 80 percent of people hired are from Atlantic Canada.”
“Networking and outreach are a top priority. We still have some ongoing recruitment challenges to fill a growing number of production technician roles and to find candidates for specialized scientific roles.”
What types of jobs are in demand?
- Production Technicians
- Specialized scientific/researcher roles
- Quality Assurance/Control professionals
- Business admin roles e.g., accounting, HR, and marketing
Vivian encourages people to consider a career in Bioscience. “There is a misconception that all jobs in this sector require a PhD or a science-related degree. For example, there is a shortage of Marketing, Accounting, and Human Resources specialists in many sectors, including bioscience.
“I encourage job seekers to read through the job postings on our website to find out what qualifications employers are looking for.” Another barrier job seekers run into is when job seekers screen themselves out because they do not have all the qualifications listed in the job posting. “However, employers don’t always expect to find someone with every qualification listed. If you have some of the qualifications listed, you should apply.
“I have heard from many companies who are happy to hear from people who are interested in working with them. Enthusiasm and motivation go a long way.”
Importance of attracting immigrants to PEI
“It’s vital that we continue to attract immigrants to the PEI bioscience sector. We work very closely with newcomer organizations to ensure their clients are aware of our job opportunities. We encourage their clients to reach out to us for one-to-one consultations where they can ask more questions about the bioscience community and learn best practices on securing employment.”
Creating local talent
To meet the growing demand for talent, there is a critical need for more skills, training, and infrastructure.
The Canadian Alliance for Skills and Training in Life Sciences (CASTL) partnered with the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBERT) to deliver on this economic demand by providing world-class training that will result in a rich talent pool of individuals who are work-ready and prepared to enter, thrive, and meet the needs of the Canadian bioscience industry.
CASTL supports the development of local talent through partnerships with academic institutions in various learning streams. CASTL works with select post-secondary partners throughout Atlantic Canada including the University of Prince Edward Island and Holland College to support and develop programming related to bioscience.
CASTL also delivers a 12-week reskilling program in partnership with Holland College to develop talent that meets the large demand for production and processing technicians within the sector across PEI. This program helps to fill this ongoing skills gap by giving trainees the necessary knowledge and skills to move into production/processing roles with confidence.
The program also includes an OJT component to give trainees real-work experience and offers employers an opportunity to recruit new employees who are work-ready. This program has been very successful in helping newcomers and women transition into a rewarding and exciting career within the PEI bioscience sector.
With the recent launch of the CASTL Online Academy powered by NIBRT, CASTL now has multiple applied learning streams and offers easy to access, interactive and cost-effective online learning options on all aspects of biopharmaceutical manufacturing. CASTL provides companies not only with an online training solution but also customizable, in-person holistic training opportunities in a realistic GMP-inspired manufacturing environment.
Bioscience programs at UPEI and Holland College
The UPEI Faculty of Science has developed a new minor in biotechnology in partnership with the CASTL in response to new career opportunities for science and technology in the biotechnology sector on PEI.
Holland College Bioscience Technology Program: www.hollandcollege.com/programs/bioscience-technology.html
Students and graduates – be aware of programs that can support your employment: www.biotalent.ca/programs
To further explore a career in the Bioscience sector:
For a list of the companies which are members of the PEI BioAlliance, click here
For job postings, click here
Job seekers may send their resumés to firstname.lastname@example.org
Resumés will be added to the online resumé library and shared with hiring managers.
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How to get started in a career in bioscience: Please refer to this list of best practices for finding a job in bioscience.