Two million engineering and life sciences jobs will become open due to retirement by 2020. What recruitment strategies are needed to build the future workforce?

As pharmaceutical and recruitment companies ruminate on effective hiring strategies that will help to better prepare the industry for the oncoming wave, it is estimated that two million engineering and life sciences jobs will become open due to retirement by 2020.   

Speaking on the subject matter, our Hydrogen Life Sciences leadership team are in agreement that alternative recruitment strategies are needed to build a future workforce. However, what and how these strategies should be applied are another challenge. 

Curating talent pools

Anticipating market trends plays a key role in curating the right talent pools to meet each organisation’s specific hiring needs. The difficulty isn't just presenting highly-niche skilled individuals to clients; it’s creating long-term hiring strategies that go beyond the norm of six to twelve months timeframes. Forecasting headcounts is important, but it is also unrealistic as pharmaceutical companies often want to know the results of the drugs they've released before investing in future hire. Plus, the flurry of mergers/takeovers means the market is far from entering a steady phase. 

In addition, an increase in regulatory prevents the market from being more open to hiring people from other areas of the industry. In return, this further shrinks the talent pool and will force pharmaceutical companies to think outside of their comfort zones. 

Appealing to the next generation  

Apprenticeships are an alternative option for the industry to explore and attract generation Y; otherwise known as millennials. As higher education becomes more expensive, some young people will be seeking different routes to commence their careers. In fact, the UK has seen a decrease of 17% of undergraduates due to the increase of university’s fees.  Such stats will imminently impact the pharmaceutical industry also. So, the question of whether the industry should establish training/placement programmes as similar to the ‘Big Four’ management consultancy firms should be asked. 

At the same time, those who choose to pursue a pharmaceutical career want reassurance that a job will be available post-graduation. Our team leaders argue that job entry roles, such as clinical trial administrator, have drastically declined; therefore the windows of opportunities for graduates become smaller. 

Although such facts are concerning, it can be equally argued that companies cannot create more opportunities for graduates if the demand simply isn't there. Attracting generation Y should be an easy task for the pharmaceutical industry as it’s reported that millennials consider ‘making the world a better place’ as a priority ; so creating drugs that do exactly that should be an easy sale, but the reality is far from perception. 

Generation Y and today’s school pupils are very much aware of Google’s brand, even if they may not fully understand the extent of its business. Yet, many have little idea of the impressive work and working environments pharmaceutical companies offer.  

Companies branding themselves as the ‘Google of the pharmaceutical industry’ or asking, “Who wants to save lives?” will certainly grab generation Y’s attention. But many companies don’t, why? Establishing a balancing act between presenting a more youthful brand that also complements the seriousness of what the industry does can be tricky, our team leaders explain. However, pharmaceutical companies should heavily promote what they do more. Additionally, the fact that many professionals within the industry enjoy an international career is often overlooked, but would be a big sale to a generation that sees the world as their ‘oyster’. 

Such advice is not completely overlooked, as a small handful of the larger companies are investing in modern working environments and providing staff with state-of-the-art research centres and laboratories to complete projects that will greatly impact the world. In addition, some companies engage with local communities through offering support to charities and enhancing science education. Such information would be positively received by those who are still pondering their career paths.

Moving the industry forward 

The recruitment industry can certainly help pharmaceutical companies raise their profile. With access to more people, with a diverse range of personalities, recruitment agencies can be ambassadors for clients at grad and career fairs. 

Joint partnerships between the two industries can expand to offering students a chance to work within and learn about the pharmaceutical industry. Even those with a minimal interest from the outset could become the next generation of managers. Imagine if one’s education is paid for or subsidised and an entry-level role leads to a global and fascinating career. It’s fair to argue that this would possibly reduce turnover as people are unlikely to leave a company when so much has been invested in them from the beginning.

Whatever the industry decides to do, 2020 is only five years away. And with an eager new generation of workers wanting to invest in a career that will make a difference to not only their generation and the ones to follow, the pharmaceutical industry must increase its engagement and tell them how a career in this sector can fulfil that exact ambition.