Life Sciences Workforce Conference 2020 Re-Cap

Jun 03, 2020

The 5th annual Life Sciences Workforce Conference took place over three afternoons in early June and emphasized the effects that the global pandemic was having on our life sciences companies and educational institutions.

Day 1 - Hiring, Onboarding, and Training

The event opened with a presentation by Karla Talanian, our Director of Talent & Workforce Development, which showed hiring trends data through the spring of 2020.  While there was a noticeable decline in job postings by life sciences companies from February through mid- May, analysis of the same three-moth period over five years showed an increase in job postings of 10% from 2019 and an increase of 55% from 2016 levels.

A panel of hiring and talent acquisition experts were on hand to provide context to these data. Their stories confirm the numbers: most Massachusetts life sciences companies have continued to grow, even through this period of unprecedented disruption.  Hiring dipped slightly early in the COVID crisis because of the urgency of transitioning to new systems, but employers quickly embraced virtual interviews and have introduced creative methods for remote training of new employees.

Day 2 - Education

After a thoughtful opening by Dr. Christopher Murphy, a Vice President at Thermo-Fisher and Chair of the MassBioEd Board, Our Keynote Address was delivered by James Peyser, Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Sec. Peyser spoke of the importance of STEM education and the key initiatives of the Baker Administration in this realm. These include career/technical programs at the high school level and building workforce development programs to upskill workers for the most in-demand technical positions.

Experts from academia spoke candidly about their experiences delivering classes remotely during the past semester, and their hopes for using technology to enable a more robust and accessible educational system into the future.  The availability and diversity of online curriculum that can be viewed asynchronously has the potential to enhance every students’ ability to access and learn.  This includes lectures and reading material as well as videos and interactive assessments that require students to exhibit deep understanding of laboratory methods. Paired with synchronous virtual class time (and an eventual return to laboratories) this new paradigm will lead to an enrichment of educational opportunities.

Day 3 - Immigration

On the third and last day, a panel of immigration attorneys led a conversation about supporting international workers and students.  International talent makes up 40% of our scientific talent, and changes in immigration policy will have a drastic effect on our workforce. Our expert panel provided an overview of the timelines necessary to complete status changes and general advice for employers and academic advisors.

Matt Sigelman, the CEO of Burning Glass Technologies, spoke on broad trends in hiring and the demand for talent with multi-disciplinary skills & non-traditional certifications, echoing conclusions from the 2019 Outlook Report. His presentation illustrated how key transferrable skills can overlap different industries, and also highlighted specific skills that can make an individual a much more attractive candidate when transitioning to a new field.

Did you miss the conference or parts of a session? You can catch up on what was discussed and hear remarks from our amazing speakers by visiting our YouTube channel.

View Hiring Trends Pre- and Post- COVID-19 and download your free copy of the 2019 Annual MA Life Sciences Employment Outlook here.

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