As the demand for education-intensive jobs continues to grow in a technology-driven world, skills development within Indiana’s health and life sciences sector requires specific attention.
This is the major finding of a recently released report conducted for BioCrossroads by TEConomy Partners, in which I took part in a panel discussion. The panel was moderated by David Johnson, president and CEO of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, and focused on developing a top-tier workforce for Indiana’s life sciences industry.
The report’s findings and the points made during the panel discussion illustrate the importance of working together to ensure that we successfully integrate our college and university graduates into Indiana’s workforce. At the same time, colleges and universities must find ways to more nimbly develop curricula that address the fast-changing needs of health and life sciences employers.
Bringing together all those with a role in this integration was the purpose of E2E Convergence, an Indiana education-to-employment conversation hosted by Innovate Indiana on May 19.
The BioCrossroads study illustrates the challenges that Indiana’s leading industries face in revamping their workforces as baby boomers begin to retire.
At the national level, more than half the jobs in industrial life sciences require at least a bachelor’s degree and fall within such areas as research and development, production, quality control and regulatory functions. These areas are becoming increasingly complex, so it comes as no surprise that hiring has become increasingly difficult.
In fact, according to a 2012 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 51 percent of life science executives – the largest share out of 19 industries surveyed — indicated such difficulty, while 28 percent expressed confidence they could hire the kind of talent they need.
“Despite the strength of key sectors within Indiana such as health and life sciences, we face a considerable risk of losing this economic advantage unless our colleges and universities can work with industry to promote more technically skilled workers.”
— Bill Stephan, IU’s vice president for engagement
For Indiana, the good news is that high-quality job opportunities in health and life sciences – areas such as biopharmaceuticals, medical devices and agricultural biosciences — are available statewide across multiple skill levels. As of 2014, one out of every 10 jobs in Indiana fall within this industry and overall job growth has moved at a 22 percent clip since 2001.
The potential bad news for Hoosiers is that unless steps to avoid complacency are taken – and taken now – significant challenges lie ahead when it comes to maintaining this key economic high ground:
- Our workforce is aging. As these skilled workers move into retirement, we need to replace them. And in doing so, we must also find the ways that best sustain the knowledge and expertise gained over the years so quality service can be maintained.
- Health care delivery methods are changing. They are moving toward value-driven models where reimbursement relies on delivering measurably improved, quality outcomes for patients. This will require more team-based health care and will require new skills within the industry, such as project management and efficient communications. It also will require more flexible health care delivery, such as services provided by physician assistants and nurse practitioners.
- Here comes the data. The unprecedented volume of datasets that emanate from biological research, medical records, advanced imaging/molecular diagnostics and remote monitoring of health care delivery and agriculture is turning health and life sciences into an information-dominated business. This means the increased availability and quality of workers with information technology and data science skill sets.
- Indiana’s top competitors are raising their game. When it comes to leading states in health and life sciences, Indiana runs in the middle of the pack in terms of growth, concentration and average wage levels. To attract many of the higher-level occupations – such as scientists and engineers – Indiana must compete on a national level and win. This includes the recruitment of home-grown talent at Indiana universities.
Several recent studies of supply and demand in Indiana sectors also have identified a technological “skills gap.” Despite the strength of key sectors within Indiana such as health and life sciences, we face a considerable risk of losing this economic advantage unless our colleges and universities can work with industry to promote more technically skilled workers.
Examples range from workers trained to operate data systems and input data to software developers and data analysts. It also includes nurses. In fact, nursing – due largely to increasingly technical skill sets — is the state’s top-ranked occupation when it comes to job openings, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.
Simply put, Indiana needs more in-state students to pursue degrees in areas such as engineering, information technology and other technically skilled occupations. And in doing so, the “college experience” must evolve so that students experience more meaningful opportunities for career preparation.
Bill Stephan is Indiana University’s vice president for engagement. He is responsible for coordinating and connecting IU’s vast intellectual and creative resources with strategic opportunities that foster Indiana’s economic growth. He currently oversees all of IU’s functions linked to economic development, technology commercialization, marketing and communications. You can contact Bill at email@example.com, (317) 274-2100.