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Skills shortage in biotechnology puts health of sector at risk, study says


Ottawa, ON – A skills shortage in Canada’s biotechnology sector is threatening the sector’s sustainability as an emerging platform of Canada’s economy, despite the fact that the sector is otherwise strong and growing.

A new study by the federally funded organization BioTalent Canada shows enormous growth in the sector over the past two decades, with small well-established employers as the backbone. However, biotechnology companies are struggling with a void of required skills within the current workforce, and new employees entering the sector who aren’t job-ready.

Canada’s bio-economy has seen greater than 77% growth since 1988, establishing it in every region of the country, in a wide cross-section of industries including agriculture, health, environment, and bio-energy. “The breadth and depth of this sector is now, for the first time ever, truly apparent,” said Colette Rivet, executive director of BioTalent Canada. “Biotechnology is strong, it’s growing and it’s everywhere.”

However, the study, entitled “Splicing the data: The critical role of human resources in Canada’s bio-economy”, brings to light the significant human resource challenges that continue to be the biggest hurdle for employers. The study reveals that 35% of employers surveyed face recruitment and retention challenges and 34% are dealing with skills shortages.

“This study triggers some alarms,” said Rivet. “People and their skills are the key, and we need to work together on these human resource issues to strengthen the sector’s viability.”

BioTalent says the study makes it clear that governments, associations, educational institutions and industry must all understand and prioritize human resources. This not only involves direct investment in HR to attract job-ready employees, but also investing money in companies themselves. Companies need capital to deepen their HR capacity. However, investors are hesitant with companies that don’t have the talent already in place. As well, educational institutions should be ready to update their curriculum to produce more job-ready graduates.

The report can be viewed on BioTalent’s website at www.biotalent.ca.