Unlocking innovation with investments in talent

Article first appeared in BIOTECanada’s Insights Magazine

By Rob Henderson

For the small- and medium-sized enterprises that make up Canada’s bio-economy, bringing innovations to market means overcoming two key challenges – access to capital and access to talent. For most employers, addressing the challenge of capital is top of mind, often leaving them to neglect the positive impact finding the right talent can have for their growth.

When companies opt to invest in human capital first, they quickly realize the benefits to their bottom line.

Investing in attracting, retaining and nurturing talent makes an organization better suited to meet both long- and short-term business objectives. Without people, there can be no science.

As the HR partner for the Canadian bioscience sector, BioTalent Canada works closely with its stakeholders to provide thought leadership and HR solutions to help bio-economy employers navigate the challenges of recruitment and retention. Our initiatives focus on three key areas:

  • Labour market intelligence
  • Professional development
  • Talent management

Identifying trends to address industry needs

Gathering up-to-date labour market information is critical for understanding the biotech sector’s current human resource landscape and to move forward in developing new strategies to help alleviate existing and future labour market challenges.

BioTalent Canada has published over 20 reports since 2007 that highlight the challenges and opportunities in an ever-evolving industry – to help bio-economy employers access evidence -based data to grow their businesses.

Currently, BioTalent Canada is conducting a national study to address current and future skills shortages and encourage strategic workforce planning within the bio-economy. This new study, which will build and expand upon the basline data from the 2013 labour market study Sequencing the Data, aligns with the Government of Canada’s Health and Bioscience Economic Strategy Table (HBEST) which recommended creating a focal point for gathering and disseminating evergreen labour market information for Canada to attract global talent, create more jobs and become a top global health and bioscience hub.

This comprehensive study will result in the publication of several reports on a national and regional level – as well as a focus on three key bio-economy hubs in Canada (Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal).

To participate in this study, visit – Biotalent.ca/LMIStudy.

Developing skills for success

According to a recent study, 76% of bio-economy employers look for interpersonal and communication skills in new hires, yet more than 50% of companies report they are experiencing skills deficiencies in their teams.

While new graduates have developed qualifications in the classroom and lab, they often lack the essential skills employers are looking for in new hires. While the importance of these skills is often neglected, the benefits for individuals entering their first career, as well as those who have already established their careers, are substantial.

To address these skills shortages, BioTalent Canada is working with both industry and academia to develop a series of online courses focused on essential skills training. This unique training program will help individuals develop learning fundamentals in reading, writing, numeracy, document use, critical thinking, digital technology, oral communication, working with others and continuous learning –equipping them for the workplace.

Funding for growth

There are many channels for companies to seek capital to develop innovations – angel investors, venture firms, even government grants. While these funding opportunities can help bring an organization closer to commercialization, they don’t usually help with building the talent base needed to reach success in a globally competitive industry.

BioTalent Canada delivers several programs to directly support businesses in their efforts to attract and retain highly-skilled talent. Since 2005, more than 4,000 job seekers have been placed in new jobs the bio-economy through funding programs for human capital.

Funding programs offered through BioTalent Canada not only help offset the costs of onboarding new talent, they help employers develop young talent to drive their innovations.

Among the most successful programs, the recent Student Work Placement Program has helped over 1,100 post-secondary students gain career-ready experience with over 370 different biotech employers.

Intended to help bridge the gap between industry and academia, the program provides students with first-hand experience while enhancing their job-readiness. For biotech employers, the program helps alleviate their concerns with investing in the hiring of students with little-to-no experience.

The Student Work Placement Program and other talent funding opportunities are currently accepting applications from employers.

Growing the industry together

For an organization whose mandate is advancing the industry through the development of highly skilled people, it is always exciting to see skills and talent play such a pivotal role in the growth of Canada’s bio-economy.

BioTalent Canada’s partnership network has brought together more than 60 bio-economy employers, national and provincial industry associations, municipalities, post-secondary institutions, service providers and immigrant serving agencies, all working to strengthen the Canadian bio-economy through skills development.

The organization remains committed to working with stakeholders to help Canadian innovation flourish on a global stage and working with partners like BIOTECanada on initiatives like BIONATION 2020 to help shape the future of biotech in Canada.