Future Proofing Skills in Life Sciences: Trends and Predictions

June 26, 2024
Future Proofing Skills in Life Sciences: Trends and Predictions
As the life sciences sector experiences unprecedented growth, with EY forecasting an estimated global biopharma market of US$419 billion by 2028, it finds itself at the crossroads of innovation and skill demand. This rapid expansion is propelled by technological advancements and evolving market needs, highlighting a pronounced demand for a diverse set of skills and competencies. Insights from industry experts and recent reports sketch a landscape in constant flux, where agility, technological proficiency, and strategic training are more crucial than ever.

Adapt and Grow

According to Kate Cotter, Training Director at NIBRT, companies within the biopharma industry are not merely filling positions; they are scouting for future skills needs. "The emphasis is on flexible, agile, and ambitious individuals who are ready not just to perform but to adapt and grow," explains Cotter. This approach is less about hiring for specific roles and more about investing in individuals who can navigate and lead through rapid advancements and changing project landscapes.

Kate Cotter
Director of Training Delivery

"In previous years, the majority of  facilities were focused on manufacture of one product, whereas now employees are working on several products and several batches, all with different nuances to them, so they need to be quite adaptable to succeed in that environment."

Fresh Perspective

Jennifer Doyle, Commercial Director at Contracting Plus, highlights the strategic engagement of contract talent as vital in this evolving ecosystem. "Professional contractors bring a fresh perspective, agility, and a broad skill set that are crucial for organisations looking to innovate and adapt quickly to new technologies and market demands," Doyle states. This trend is reflective of the broader contract economy in Ireland, where there is a growing optimism and a clear shift towards engaging knowledgeable professionals who can lead early-stage projects and organisational transformations. In a recent report by Contracting Plus and Trinity College Dublin, it is clear professional contractors are optimistic about the overall economy and growth within the sector:

  • 89% of Pharma contractors believe their skills are useful and transferable
  • 60% believe they were hired primarily for having different expertise
  • 66% agree they are learning new skills in their current project

Flexibility and Adaptability

Looking ahead, the life sciences sector anticipates a greater integration of digital technologies. Key skills and competencies will include automation, data analytics and visualisation, AI, and digitalisation, with an ongoing need for adaptability and problem-solving skills. 

Jennifer Doyle
Commercial Director

"There’s a need for workforces and organisations to innovate, adopt new technologies and respond to ever-changing market demands. In turn, that creates a need to be agile, fast-moving and have access to a wide range of skills, so engaging contract talent makes complete sense."

Professional contractors work within knowledge intensive industries and will be instrumental in supporting projects by transferring their skills to the life sciences sector.

An EGFSN report from earlier this year forecasts 21,000 additional jobs for the biopharma sector by 2027. Outside of automation and digitalisation, Cotter anticipates the need to develop more drug product expertise as it can be difficult to find talent with fill finish and aseptic technique experience. Again, flexibility and adaptability will be core competencies as the ability to work on multi-product sites and handle various projects simultaneously will be essential. “In previous years, the majority of  facilities were focused on manufacture of one product, whereas now employees are working on several products and several batches, all with different nuances to them, so they need to be quite adaptable to succeed in that environment,” Cotter explains.

Both Cotter and Doyle emphasise the importance of strategic training and development plans. For Professional Contractors, this means a focus on continual upskilling. For companies, this means investing in training not just at the onset of employment but as a continuous priority that aligns with corporate goals and market developments. "It’s about showing employees they are valued, not just through words but through real investment in their potential and career progression," says Cotter.

Innovation and Market Adaptability

The future of life sciences requires a workforce that is versatile, technologically adept, and strategically prepared. Organisations that prioritise continuous learning and adaptability within their teams, along with a blended workforce that is skills focused, will likely lead in innovation and market adaptability. As the industry continues to evolve, so too must its workforce, readying itself for the next wave of challenges and opportunities in life sciences. This forward-looking approach ensures that life sciences not only respond to current demands but also drive future developments, maintaining a competitive edge in a rapidly advancing field.

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