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Life science industry proves resilient after difficult year

July 01, 2021
By: Ellen Marrison

Helping to meet the challenge of fighting a global pandemic while growing high-quality jobs during an economic downturn, the life sciences industry showed its strength over the course of the past year. An update to the biennial Life Science Workforce Trends report from the Coalition of State Bioscience Institutes (CSBI) asserts that it is because of the industry’s skilled-talent base and sets out to assess the industry’s position and priorities in 2021, focusing on its demands for workforce and talent.

Calling 2020 perhaps the “ultimate test of the industry’s resilience,” the report found that the life science industry represents a steady economic growth driver despite the pandemic’s challenges, noting that the industry continued to hire and grow its employment base by 1.4 percent in 2020 while the overall private sector saw a 5.1 percent decline.

The life science industry also employs a more highly-skilled, STEM-intensive workforce compared to all industries, with 47 percent of the industry’s employment in high-skilled occupations compared to 27 percent for all other industries. High-skilled jobs are described in the report as those that typically require a bachelor’s or higher degree for entry.

The research found that corporate job postings reflect an outsized demand for high-skilled talent in the life science industry, with 75 percent of postings preferring a bachelor’s degree or higher. In addition to the outsize demand for workers with a four-year degree or higher, the report also reveals a growing concern regarding a shortage of skilled technical workers, those with STEM skills and knowledge who do not have bachelor’s degree but are needed in the industry.

Advancing a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce has been elevated as a strategic priority for at least 65 percent of the nearly 200 life science executives who were interviewed for the report. And 78 percent of interviewed executives also report their companies participate in formal partnership(s) with educational institutions in activities ranging from scholarship programs, internships and apprenticeships to classroom visits, guest lecturing and equipment donations.

CSBI collaborated with TEConomy Partners, LLC, to compile the report and relied on data including a national life sciences industry hiring survey, details of 2.5 million unique job postings of life sciences companies over the last four years, and interviews with nearly 200 industry executives. The full report is available here.

life sciences, workforce, research