This is the first in a three-part series about building and retaining talent in support of our growing bioscience sector.
Maryland’s bioscience community is expanding and maturing which is great news for our state. Our bio-based ecosystem is healthy and getting positive exposure locally, nationally and internationally. Expanding and strengthening this sector to make it a key economic driver for the state is a worthy goal. In fact, the state economic development folks have a mantra, to be number 3 by the year 2023, that is to be the third biggest life sciences region in the US, and this makes perfect sense as a realistic actionable goal.
As we expand Maryland’s bioscience community, a reliable supply of skilled workers becomes more important than ever. I am not referring to executives, managers and department heads. I am talking about the workers that do the basic daily tasks. Let’s take for example those working in an R & D, or a quality control lab, or in a cleanroom manufacturing suite or even in packaging. As with any ecosystem, every niche needs to be filled and be productive to remain in balance with the other departments and processes existing in that ecosystem. This balance then ensures the long-term survival and continued healthy growth of our industry sector.
So, how do we find applicants for the basic entry-level positions that are available but that often go unfilled? We often look for college graduates with 4-year degrees to fill these spots. Is that the right place to look?
A recent report by the Harvard Business School, Accenture and Grads of Life, states that degree inflation is a disturbing trend. Companies are now requiring college degrees for some entry level positions when it is not necessary. The report emphasizes that degree inflation has widespread consequences for both employers and workers. For example, a college degree increases the salary by as much as 30% and it takes longer to fill positions. Once hired college graduates have higher turnover and lower levels of engagement especially in positions that traditionally have not required a college degree. A Washington Post article written by Jeffery J. Selingo (October 27, 2017) covering the Harvard report makes a point of mentioning that “degree inflation also disproportionally affects minority workers, who often have lower levels of educational attainment.” Two-thirds of respondents to the Harvard survey stipulated that a four-year degree excluded qualified candidates from consideration.
How do we become more inclusive and provide opportunities to everyone in our state? My answer is to look within, literally. We have a large untapped workforce here in Maryland. Let’s take this opportunity to consider digging deeper into our communities to find workers who want to work and make a difference.
Part 2 of this series – How is Maryland addressing this workforce gap?
I continue this series with an overview of programs funded by Maryland and other jurisdictions to address the entry-level workforce gap. Learn how these programs provide the necessary training to provide a valuable labor resource to our growing “bio business.”