Most sectors within the biotech industry have seen significant growth in research and innovation that has allowed Canada to showcase itself.

Canada’s bioeconomy is still hampered by skills shortages resulting from untapped talent pools. Labour market information from a 2013 BioTalent Canada report, Sequencing the Data, indicated that despite making considerable advancements, companies have reported employing fewer women, Aboriginals, people with disabilities, and internationally educated professionals. New graduates have also faced challenges in entering a field that requires considerable experience.

Embracing diversity

As a nation that prides itself on diversity, Canadian biotech needs to embrace this same concept to continue its growth and sustainability.  It is important that the current skills shortages and expected future HR challenges be addressed by all so gaps between expectations and reality do not increase. When organizations hire a diverse workforce, innovation and problem solving improve, as does their ability to adopt a global perspective needed to stand out in an increasingly competitive market (52 percent of employers have reported hiring newcomers has done just that). In order to address the challenges faced within the bioeconomy, companies must continue to attract, develop, and retain skilled, experienced workers, and must increasingly do so from non-traditional labour pools.

“Canada’s bioeconomy is still hampered by skills shortages resulting from untapped talent pools.”

The industry also needs to find ways to encourage Canada’s future leaders to pursue careers in biotech. Many new graduates are deterred from entering the industry because of the level of experience required to grow their career. By enhancing mentorship and wage subsidy programs through the support of government and industry stakeholders, we will be able to close the skills gap and encourage the next generation of biotech leaders to realize their potential and highlight the limitless opportunities that are available to them.

Opening discussion and engagement by employers and job seekers is paramount for the bioeconomy to flourish. Only when the talent needs of the industry are acknowledged will we be able to continue to stand out as thought leaders in an emerging industry. People are the underlying and driving force in Canada’s bioeconomy, and now is the time to build the necessary strategies to push towards future sustainability and success.