Blog | January 3, 2022

Talent Crunch Compels Cell & Gene Industry, Applicants To Get Creative

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By Anna Rose Welch, Director, Cell & Gene Collaborative
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This article is the first in a five-part series unpacking the Top 5 Cell & Gene Therapy Manufacturing Evolutions in 2021. We’ll be counting down from #5 to #1, starting here with #5.

But heaven forbid anything be straightforward. As I was working on this series, it struck me just how nicely the lyrics to some of Taylor Swift’s biggest hits complement the larger themes I’ve noted in the CGT manufacturing space. So, in addition to providing the big CGT picture, each article will offer an accompanying song recommendation (and lyrics!), if only to add a touch of levity to the important discussions at hand.

Music & Lyrics: “How You Get The Girl” [Or Guy, etc.]
And then you say/I want you for worse or for better/
I would wait for ever and ever/…/
And that’s how it works/That’s how you get the girl [guy, etc.]

When I entered this space last January, I’ll admit, I was a little envious of the U.K. Thanks to the size of the U.K.— at least, in comparison to the U.S.— there is an enviable cohesion behind the country’s drive to forecast, build up, and train a workforce for its growing CGT industry. Look no farther than its latest U.K. Skills Demand Survey Report, published by The Cell & Gene Therapy Catapult. (Innovate U.K. and The CGT Catapult also launched the Advanced Therapies Skills Training Network in early 2020, the training centers of which opened in July 2021).

Of course, the U.S. has its perks — that’s why a solid chunk of the CGT market is based here. But given the size of the market (and country and government), this also means that, when it comes to finding talent and organizing workforce training, it can all feel a bit fragmented. After all, much of the workforce building is done on a state-by-state and even city level (think NC’s Research Triangle; the Cambridge, MA cluster; & “Cellicon Valley” a.k.a Philadelphia, PA.) Not to mention, a lot of other cities/states out there have a hankering to become the next big  CGT and/or biotech R&D hub (hey there, Columbus and Texas).

In the past year, we’ve seen some incredible strides made to bolster interest in becoming a part of the regenerative medicine space. Some of the most notable examples include: the ARM GROW Internship Program;  NJII and McKinsey’s Digital Capabilities Center to advance Industry 4.0; and corporate/university innovation centers — this recently announced Spark & Drexel center being a great example.  

But if I had to summarize the CGT hiring story, it’s that adaptable employees are this industry’s bread and butter and are more regularly becoming recognized as such.

During one of the many panels I watched over the course of the last year, I appreciated one speaker’s honest question of whether the industry’s talent crunch is, in part, due to our own “over-spec-ing” of roles. Instead of packing the job postings with often-specialized specifications, many of you in the past year have begun to emphasize the importance of filling CGT roles with experts that have a sense of adventure, a willingness to embrace the unknown, and an ability to learn quickly and go where the work is needed most — even if it isn’t within the limits of their own specialties. (I often find myself gravitating back to this fantastic example from Tenaya Therapeutics about how to best deploy your workforce where and when it is needed most.) In the wise (-ish) words of T-Swift quoted above, the past year has taught the industry that opening a CGT organization to those out-of-the-box (or out-of-the-bioreactor?) thinkers and agile learners is “how you’ll get the [new employee].”

 

Interested in checking out manufacturing evolution #4? Click here!