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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has seized the life sciences opportunity by nurturing and developing a truly robust innovation ecosystem. It is recognized nationally as an industry leader and as an international hub for life sciences. The position where our state finds itself should be celebrated; however, as life science companies and industry stakeholders well know, it comes with the challenge of meeting the steady and increasing demand for talent. For the Commonwealth to maintain its position, as we face mounting competition from neighboring states, there needs to be concentrated investment in the state’s existing workforce and its residents.

The Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation (MassBioEd) is developing the 2022 Massachusetts Life Sciences Employment Outlook to shed more light on the workforce needs of the industry. The data in the 2021 Massachusetts Life Sciences Employment Outlook: Meeting the Talent Challenge in a Resilient Growth Industry still provides relevant, critical information as we determine a path forward. The report explores how Massachusetts has demonstrated resiliency, and even growth, in life sciences despite the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the pandemic-induced recession. Further, the report illustrates how much more potential the industry must develop, evolve, and adapt so as to continue to lead in the fast-growing life sciences space. In 2020, Massachusetts-based life sciences companies employed more than 89,000 individuals, an employment base which has grown by 67% over the last decade. There is, however, a sizable misalignment of life science talent in Massachusetts and if this mismatch persists through 2024, it could result in a talent supply gap of 3,200 workers. Life sciences industry employment is 3.6 times more concentrated in Massachusetts relative to the national average. The Commonwealth must work to continue to build talent to keep up with the growing demand.

Over the next 4 years (from 2021 through 2024), if recent industry growth trends continue, the industry can be expected to generate more than 20,000 net new jobs across all occupations from STEM fields to sales, production, management, business functions, and more. MassBioEd is dedicated to ensuring the dynamic, statewide life sciences ecosystem meets the workforce and talent challenge through educational programming that engages and inspires teachers and students and illuminates the pathway from the classroom to careers.

Massachusetts’ demand for life sciences talent is especially STEM-intensive and focused on attracting “high-skilled” top talent, specifically those with bachelor’s or higher degrees. In recent years, the industry has demonstrated strong demand for managerial, scientific, data sciences, IT, and engineering expertise. However, the Commonwealth’s life sciences companies report the most difficulty in hiring for regulatory affairs/compliance, research scientists, data scientists and engineering professionals with product and/or process development expertise. Experience matters to employers, and to grow and diversify the life sciences industry talent pipeline we must continue to invest in our students. The result is across-the-board talent sourcing and hiring challenges for state life sciences employers. Massachusetts companies surveyed report a greater degree of difficulty in hiring across every key position compared with their counterparts nationally.

Massachusetts’ K-12 students represent the next generation of industry workforce and talent, and life sciences industry leaders and stakeholders should continue to nurture their interests in STEM more broadly, and the life sciences more specifically. Currently, Massachusetts’ students stand out among the nation’s highest performers in math and science assessments, however, only about half of 4th and 8th grade students in the state demonstrate proficiency in these subjects, far from a passing grade. With more training and access to life science education, we could strengthen our students and nurture their interests in a way that can benefit Massachusetts’ own life sciences field. Additionally, the state should continue to support internships and increase support and infrastructure for apprenticeships and those coming up the pipeline.

As the Commonwealth looks towards the future, MassBioEd is committed to expanding the reach of the programming we offer, including our BioTeach and BioTalent programs. MassBioEd is investing in a multi-pronged approach to education and career exploration. Through our programs, we aim to educate the next generation of science leaders, introduce individuals to potential careers, and cultivate a field of experts who are diverse, well-educated, and committed to solving the world’s most vexing challenges. We inspire the future workforce by promoting authentic science in the classrooms. We also help educators, professionals, and companies navigate the life sciences industry by tracking workforce trends and providing insights into the industry’s growth and evolution.

The life sciences represent an industry with a strong dual value-proposition—developing innovations that save and improve lives, while at the same time propelling economic growth. Massachusetts has built and nurtured a truly robust innovation ecosystem, which has translated into a leading position among states and a major global hub for life sciences. The Commonwealth cannot rest on its laurels as the state faces direct competition from neighboring states for attracting life sciences companies away from the region. Massachusetts already has the resources required to educate and train a local workforce that can meet the needs of the life sciences industry and raise up residents from every corner of the state.

MassBioEd, along with its education and workforce development partners, are enhancing the ecosystem by developing creative approaches to meeting the workforce challenge through biotechnology education, career awareness programming, apprenticeships, and more. But to meet the challenge will require continued collaboration between academia and life sciences employers. These reports have, and will continue to, serve as a guide and resource for these critical near- and long-term talent development efforts.

The 2022 Report will be released at MassBioEd’s 7th Annual Life Sciences Workforce Conference on June 8, 2022 at Framingham State University. Find out more and register here.