By Zeninjor Enwemeka, WBUR
Massachusetts is outpacing the nation in life sciences job growth, according to a new report released Wednesday by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation, or MassBioEd.
The state’s life sciences sector grew its employment base by 14.6% between 2019 and 2022, compared to just 9.4% nationally, the report found. This growth occurred during a period when the state’s overall economy declined by 2.6%, the report noted.
And MassBioEd projects more growth is coming: The report estimates the life sciences will increase the 132,000 jobs it had in 2022 by 32% in 10 years.
However, while jobs are booming in the state’s life sciences industry, there may not be enough workers to fill these positions. The sector is projected to have an average of more than 6,600 openings annually in key roles over the next decade, according to the report. And the state’s colleges and universities are only producing about half that amount of graduates in life sciences, the report noted.
“While our education institutions are very robust here in Massachusetts, they’re just not keeping up with the demand from industry,” MassBioEd CEO Sunny Schwartz said. “So we need more production from our higher education institutions, or we need nontraditional paths into the industry.”
Schwartz said the industry also needs to consider new ways of training and recruiting to reach more workers. As an example, Schwartz cited the apprenticeship program that MassBioEd launched in 2021 that placed talent in 20 companies.
The report calls for greater investment in specialized training programs as well as more targeted outreach to a broader range of potential workers.
“I think there’s a perception in the life sciences that everyone has a Ph.D. who works in this industry, and that is simply not true,” Schwartz said. She noted that only 19% of industry jobs require a Ph.D., and 10% do not require a bachelor’s degree.
“So there’s a lot of opportunity in this industry for people at all levels of education,” she said.
Though the state remains a hub for highly specialized jobs, such as in biopharmaceuticals, other areas within the industry have experienced rapid growth, prompting a need for workers with varied skillsets. Computing and IT roles have increased by 52% since 2019 to about 11,000 jobs in 2022, according to the report. Additionally, production and manufacturing jobs have grown by about 37% since 2019, after years of job declines in these areas.
The report also addresses diversity within the industry, something its authors say will be crucial as the sector tries to reach more workers to fill its job gaps. Schwartz said the industry has worked to increase the number of women in the field and in leadership roles, but still has more work to do when it comes to hiring more people of color.
Clarification: The study projected an average of more than 6,600 annual openings for key roles in the life sciences over the next decade.
This article was originally published on May 31, 2023.
See original article on WBUR’s website.