Creating a More Resilient Bio-economy

By Rob Henderson
Published in Insights Magazine, Spring 2023

Canada’s biotech sector is helping to revolutionize the national economy. Biotech companies and their employees are already impacting sectors ranging from agriculture and healthcare to forestry and fishing.  

But despite its growing influence in our society, Canada’s biotech sector is still desperately short of qualified and skilled workers to help innovate and drive it forward. BioTalent Canada forecasts that more than 65,000 new bioscience workers will be needed in Canada by the end of this decade.  

Severe labour shortages are expected in almost all areas: research and development, manufacturing and production, management, finance and administrative jobs, distribution and logistics, to name only a few. Filling this labour need will not be easy.  

Going forward, we need to train young talent with the skills needed for the life sciences jobs of tomorrow. We also need to ensure that people have clear career development opportunities and the essential and technical skills that will allow them to thrive in the quickly changing bio-economy.  

As the talent development partner of the biotech sector, BioTalent Canada is dedicated to helping industry meet its employment needs by providing critical labour market information, skills development for the next generation of workers, and assistance finding talent. 

To this end, BioTalent Canada has developed a National Talent Strategy that provides a roadmap for the delivery of key programs and resources that will help to ensure Canada’s bio-economy employers have access to a highly competent workforce that can meet the needs of the industry over the long-term. 

Launched in 2022, the National Talent Strategy fills a longstanding need within the bio-economy. Namely to identify areas of greatest employer need within Canada’s biotech sector and help employers  develop the workforces they need both today and in the future. 

The National Talent Strategy is comprised of five key components, each of which is important on its own and all of which are closely intertwined. The components are: 

  1. Labour Market Information (LMI): Provides accurate and current labour market information about the required skills, available talent, and future needs of employers. The most recent LMI study was updated in 2021 and provides a detailed picture of the available workforce in Canada and anticipated skills gaps.  
  2. National Occupational Standards (NOS): This information provides a common understanding of the typical tasks of a specific job, as well as the skills, education and other credentials required to successfully carry out a particular job. Employers can use this information to help alleviate a shortfall of 65,000 bio-economy workers by 2029 that was identified in our Labour Market Information report.  
  3. Professional Development: Offers to biotech employers a series of skills courses to ensure that new employees are job-ready. These courses teach essential skills such as critical thinking, communication and document use, as well as technical skills such as laboratory and manufacturing practices, scientific report writing, and quality assurance/quality control. Employers say essential “soft” skills plus specialized technical skills are needed throughout the industry.
  4. Skills Recognition: Through the BioSkills Recognition Program, employers can be confident they are hiring people who have the skills they need. Newcomers, internationally educated professionals (IEPs) and workers from other fields offer a wealth of skills and expertise, and they are a key source of the talent needed to meet labour needs in Canada over the next decade. The BioSkills Recognition Program gives these workers a way to have their skills and credentials recognized for their value to the bio-economy
  5. Talent Management: Programs designed specifically for the bio-economy, with tailored tools to bring employers and workers together. Our bio-economy-exclusive job boards, The PetriDish™ and BioSkills Match™ database, help employers and job-seekers to identify the right fit for every role. The Student Work Placement Program that has placed over 11,000 students since 2017 takes the risk out of hiring new graduates, newcomers to Canada, or other people with little formal bio-economy experience. Employers can rest easy knowing that they are hiring skilled workers and compensating them appropriately.  

Together, these components form a robust National Talent Strategy for Canada’s bio-economy, one that will help the sector to develop in coming years and ensure that the talent needs of employers are met.  

Woven throughout the strategy is the backdrop of inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility (IDEA). Widespread adoption of these principles is a critical component for a healthy and vibrant biotech sector in Canada, one where all people are able to bring their best and contribute to the success of the industry. This is why last year, BioTalent Canada launched The I.D.E.A.L. Bioscience Employer™ Recognition Program. A recognition developed to highlight employers leading the way to a more diverse and inclusive sector. 

The National Talent Strategy is an important step in the evolution of Canada’s bio-economy and provides a blueprint for success as technology and our society continues to evolve.   

To learn more about our National Talent Strategy and I.D.E.A.L. Bioscience Employer Recognition Program, please visit BioTalent Canada’s website 

Rob Henderson is President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BioTalent Canada.