RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – North Carolina is widely known for its job-ready biopharma manufacturing workforce. And the newly published 2020 edition of the “Window on the Workplace” (WoW) study analysis says the state’s long-term commitment to biopharma workforce readiness will need to adjust and grow to meet coming demand.
The report studied a subset of North Carolina’s life science companies – 80 biopharma sites whose 26,800 employees manufacture an array of products including small-molecule pharmaceuticals, monoclonal antibodies, industrial enzymes, vaccines, and cell and gene-based therapies. Employment in this subset of companies is expected to grow by 5,000 jobs by 2024.
A significant attraction of the biopharma manufacturing sector is its average wage of $97,575 – more than twice that of the state’s overall private sector salary. These jobs are also available to a wide array of North Carolinians, because even though it’s science-based work, good jobs are available for people with varying levels of education and training.
WoW notes that North Carolina will continue to see workforce needs change as a result of the growing core of highly specialized manufacturers of new types of products such as cell- and gene-based therapies. It uses the term “biopharma” to describe the wide-ranging study cohort most appropriate to North Carolina. That encompasses biopharmaceutical and small-molecule pharmaceutical manufacturers as well as the manufacturers of industrial enzymes and R&D products.
These are not static positions, however. Changes in production practices, automation and digitization are among the reasons that workers in biopharma manufacturing need to regularly upgrade their skills. And biopharma manufacturers warn that an increase in retirement of baby boomers will boost demand for replacements.
The report recommends the addition of new training programs, often coupled with industry collaborators. Building on the state’s much-heralded NCBioImpact programs would help ensure workforce readiness.
The document also encourages expansion of the candidate pool with programs like those recently launched by NCBiotech to raise biopharma career awareness among transitioning military, veterans and their spouses, students, and workers in other fields.
First published in 1995, the report has been updated every few years by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center (NCBiotech) and the North Carolina Biosciences Organization (NCBIO).
It’s the result of surveys completed by representatives of the state’s pharmaceutical manufacturing sites and data gathered at interviews and listening sessions. Participants shared ideas and projections on education and training needs statewide, and possibilities for attracting more people to careers in the field.