The Workforce Need:
Maryland BioHealth industries have a workforce crisis. Unprecedented growth in the region’s bioscience industries has occurred since 2001, with more than 800 biotechnology-related companies now located in the state. The burgeoning industry has led to the creation of nearly 100,000 jobs in Greater Baltimore and metropolitan DC during the last decade, and the potential exists for the workforce to double by 2023. Surprisingly, growth has been limited by the inability to attract and retain a sufficient workforce. Talent seekers consistently report that jobs remain vacant for extended periods of time, positions go unfilled, and competent employees are recruited away to larger markets. The biggest pool of potential talent is the region’s colleges and universities. Nearly 100,000 undergraduate students are enrolled in STEM programs throughout the BioHealth Capital Region that should serve as a direct talent pipeline for the bioscience workforce. However, this impressive output of students trained in STEM disciplines has not translated into bioscience workforce talent.
A severe disconnect exists between the bioscience industries and academic institutions in the BioHealth Capital Region. Neither entity has a full appreciation of each other’s goals or needs in the short or long-term. As a consequence, career centers, administrators, and faculty at most colleges and universities in the region have little knowledge of how to prepare undergraduates for bioscience careers. Conversely, BioHealth companies in the region have done a poor job of recruiting college graduates, largely because marketing approaches are out of touch with the talent pool.
We believe that the solution to developing an adequate workforce pipeline is not biotechnical; it is biocultural. Launching more programs that simply focus on technical skill development is not the answer.
What is needed is a fresh approach to life science education that trains students broadly, using interdisciplinary approaches, introducing authentic research and job skills, coupled with career mentoring and opportunities for internships, co-op experiences, and research, much earlier in their college careers than has been done in the past. The educational enterprise should also represent partnerships between academe, industry, government and the private sector, working collaboratively to prepare students for multiple career paths.