Ensuring that the supply of qualified professionals is sufficient to meet demand will be the crucial step in successfully expanding the biopharma industry in Ireland.
The EGFSN (Expert Group on Future Skills Needs) estimates that Biologics manufacturing employment will grow from 6,700 in 2015 to 11,700 by 2020. The number of professionals employed in the production of traditional pharmaceuticals will remain stable during this time. However, employment opportunities will continue due to the need for replacement staff.
Combining replacement demand and growth there will be approximately 7,100 job openings from 2017 to 2020. Thus, increasing the number of qualified graduates and attracting the right international talent is crucial if we are to ensure Ireland can meet the demand of its biopharma industry.
The biopharma sector employs significantly more third-level graduates than the average industry. Almost 50% of employees in the sector have a third level qualification, compared to a national average of 24%. Also, 25% of all PhD researchers working in the industry are in the biopharma sector. According to EGFSN, there should be a sufficient supply of graduates in the medium term to meet industry demand. However, the EGFSN identified a short-term need for a number of technicians and senior process scientists within the industry. This is not expected to be a factor as there’s an appropriate number of training places to overcome this deficit.
The Government initiated it’s ‘Smart Futures’ programme in 2012. With the aim of encouraging young people to pursue careers in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related industries. Consequently, the programme has been very successful at increasing the number of secondary students taking higher-level maths. There have been record numbers opting for the higher level at both leaving and junior cert level this year. Since the introduction of the bonus points system for honours maths, the number of students sitting the exam has risen from 20% to 36% between 2011 and 2017.
Increasing the number of students taking higher-level maths will lead to more students of STEM courses at third level. Particularly, it is graduates from these courses that form the technical backbone of the biopharma industry. Growing the volume of applicants to these courses is important for providing sufficient talent for the industry.
Given the long history of pharmaceutical manufacturing and the commitment of government and industry, we believe Ireland is in an excellent position to capitalise on this opportunity. In conclusion, the conditions are extremely favourable for any biopharma company considering establishing an operation in Ireland today.
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Collins McNicholas Recruitment & HR Services