Biopharma survey: Shortage of bioprocessing talent key threat to sector

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

Image: iStock/adrian825
Image: iStock/adrian825
Industry is struggling to find and develop skilled bioprocessing workers according to respondents to NIBRT’s biopharma trends survey.

Over 100 biopharma and bioprocessing professionals responded to the 21-question survey, the results of which were published by Ireland’s National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) – a government funded centre described as a “flight simulator for biopharma manufacturing​.”

Commenting on the results, NIBRT said “recruitment and development of talent is seen as a key threat to the future growth of the sector.”

All the respondents to a question on recruitment said they are finding it either highly or moderately difficult to hire bioprocess engineers, for example.

Biomanufacturers are also having issues filling other job functions with 43% and 47% of respondents reporting a high and medium level of difficulty, respectively, in recruiting downstream processing experts.

The survey reported similar percentages for upstream positions, while the only named job functions that scored a percentage of over 20% for having a low level of difficulty to recruit were experts in QA, QC, and facilities/utilities.

Staff development

But as far as developing staff, respondents overwhelmingly said (88%) that on the job training is highly effective, while 74% claimed practical training in a lab or pilot plant environment was also highly effective.

“Hands-on practical training, either on-the-job or in training pilot plant environment, are seen as the most effective methods of staff development,”​ the Dublin-based organisation commentated.

An accredited post-graduate education programme from a higher level institution was deemed highly effective by 38%, while just a third of respondents highly rated a short course from third-party providers on particular topics.

24% found online training highly effective, but almost 40% said such methods had limited purpose.

Increasing hands-on training options

There are growing examples of government, academia and industry offering increased options for training in the bioprocessing sector.

As well as NIBRT in Ireland, sites like North Carolina State University’s Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center (BTEC​), and Austin Community College in Texas​ have benefited from government funding to help train bioprocessing staff.

And Indian biomanufacturer Biocon has formed a biomanufacturing training academy​ in collaboration with the Keck Graduate Institution in California, US on the back of a shortfall of local talent in the sector.

Meanwhile, vendors have begun tapping up the training space, offering non-GMP sites and centres for customers and potential customers to test out equipment and processes (for example GE Healthcare in South Korea​).

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