I have been fortunate to travel quite a lot recently to several different conferences in the MTP sector across Australia. It’s been great to be out and about again to develop my knowledge further and meet with companies and new potential candidates.
(MTP = medical technologies, biotechnologies and pharmaceuticals sectors)
- MTAA – Medtech Conference – Sydney
- AusBiotech – Perth
- ACTA – Adelaide
- BioMed City – MTP Connect – Adelaide
- NSV – Neurosciences Victoria – Science and Industry Council
- Australian Microcaps Conference – Melbourne
- BioMelbourne Bio Symposium – Supporting Future BioPharma – Melbourne
- Bionics Institute – Innovation Lecture – Melbourne
- BioPharma Dispatch –Post Budget Summit Sydney
Each time I have been to a conference or event, there are several consistent themes.
My key insights from the week at AusBiotech that everyone was talking about were what I am now calling,
The 5 C’s for a successful Biotech
As you know, here at mexec, we are all about people and capabilities.
Capabilities – Companies need to have the right talent with the necessary skills and experience required to ensure success.
As a Recruiter with over 20 years of experience, I have never seen the talent pool of experienced candidates available for companies as low as it is now. Recruitment projects that would take 1- 6 weeks to find the right person are now sometimes taking months.
There are skills gap shortages in many industries, not just ours, and as many of you would know, while migration may assist in some areas – looking at what can be done locally to develop skilled candidates is also key.
I was also fortunate to be part of the development of the AusBiotech Decadal plan last year, which outlines many of the strategies for developing people and talent to build the capabilities of the Life Sciences industry over the next 20 years.
Check out the plan and point seven on the plan:
Talent: Address the gaps in access to appropriate skills and talent, using proactive and resourced initiatives that attract, build and retain core talent essential for the industry’s growth.
At the recent AusBiotech conference in Perth, I was also invited to be on a speaking panel, where I presented some common themes on hiring challenges in the current market.
Below are a few thoughts I was able to provide commentary on:
Employer issues on accessing staff:
- Every company wants experienced people – The adage ‘you can’t train for experience’ is true, but in many cases, there is no one in Australia with 100% of the experience desired.
- Staff do not have the time to train new hires as they are busy with their routine workloads.
- No money to train $$ – There is often no capital to train or bring in new staff.
- Smaller companies are the training ground for larger companies – This is a significant issue, and lots of poaching of trained staff from the smaller companies occurs.
- Consultants/lots of virtual companies – A lack of incentives for companies to train and use in-house talent as opposed to external consultants and temporary contract hires.
- Travelling overseas for a Post Doc and not coming back – Relative and perceived levels of local vs. international opportunity and exposure to global cutting-edge science.
- US companies are now hiring Aussie talent locally – Paying more for our locals than we can offer. Watch this space.
Some solutions for companies:
These are just a few thoughts from some hiring managers that I quizzed at AusBiotech and also from some of my clients that they felt may make a difference.
- MTP and REDI program/consortiums programs are great. We just need more of them, funding for higher intake numbers, and more exposure and awareness through maturing outreach campaigns.
- Smaller companies can access relief for salaries or staff compared to larger companies.
- Graduate program rebates/tax exemptions.
- An R&D tax-like program for specifically training new staff. Maybe also with a buddy as an essential part of the program. I.e. not just based on the spending of dollars on R&D, which is part of the R&D tax incentives, but on the people hiring and development specifically.
- Expand VISA categories – more contemporary role descriptions, pathways and reduction of the laborious application process that can take months/years compared to other countries.
- For an SME service provider, they suggested Payroll tax exceptions to offer more competitive salaries against the big pharma that picks off their trained staff.
- Apprenticeship/ trainee programs – Cert III in Business – similar program?
- Personal Incentives for an experienced person to train an untrained person.
- $ – just good old cash
- Vice Versa – We have now accessed internationally based staff for our clients, a great access path for companies seeking experienced talent.
In 5 years, are we going to be in the same place?
Imagine if every company or person I have spoken with or seen in the past few months hired one untrained person. That does not mean graduate or PhD necessarily, but someone that has only 40% of what you are after rather than the 70% plus? I have personally interacted with 700-plus companies over the last six months. That is then 700 new trained staff.
Would there still be the same shortage in 5 years? Maybe to some degree, but it certainly would be a lot better than now, as they can also train others.
As I did at AusBiotech on the panel, I encourage you to try to make it happen, even if there are no financial incentives; for the sake of the sector, there needs to be more investment in developing the capabilities of our locals to keep Australia competitive internationally.