The Life Science sector in Ireland has been growing steadily over the last number of years. Increased investment in already established sites and a continued influx of new Pharmaceutical/Biopharmaceutical companies to Ireland has significantly increased demand for skill sets within the Life Science industry. 24 out of 25 of the worlds largest Pharma/Biopharma companies now have bases in Ireland whether it be in manufacturing or commercial/support operations.  Over the last 10 years’ the Biopharmaceutical industry has seen an approximate $10 billion investment into Ireland with sites such as Biomarin, BMS and Regeneron setting up large manufacturing facilities. The Pharmaceutical industry has also increased investment in the last number of years’ with well established companies expanding and upgrading their sites, including Mylan, MSD Ballydine, Abbvie Sligo and Pfizer in Cork.

This increase in demand for an already stretched skill set has significantly increased competition between the Pharmaceutical and Biopharmaceutical companies. It is certainly becoming more and more prevalent with people constantly moving between industries and for the majority of positions previous industry experience doesn’t seem to be a hindering factor. For the likes of QA, Reg Affairs and Quality Control positions – systems, procedures and roles tend to be very interchangeable and are often quite similar between sectors. There are a few variations to this of course – Pharmaceutical organisations often base their testing off traditional chemistry techniques such as wet chemistry testing, HPLC, GC, etc. Biopharmaceutical companies now have an increasing requirement for skills based around Bioassays, cell culture and purification. Chemists also were predominantly based in Pharmaceutical organisations in roles such as development, analytical and process chemists. Now Biopharmaceutical companies are looking for all the same positions in the area of biologics. So, how can these be interchangeable and what are the key factors for people choosing between industries as a candidate? The biggest factors I constantly see are –

  • Location
  • Company reputation
  • Salary
  • Career growth
  • Contract vs Permanent roles

HOW DOES THIS FIT IN WITH WHAT COMPANIES ARE LOOKING FOR?

What I have found, is companies are focusing on experience in areas such as validations, method transfers, manufacturing processes rather than focusing in on the specifics of biologics vs. chemistry. Employers are looking for people who have transferrable skills and are happy to adapt and change their skill set. A big focus at the moment is cultural fit and developing a career plan for employees. With increased competition between the sectors a big factor for people on the move is market reputation of a company. So rather than focusing in on the sector, they are identifying companies they would like to get into and that they know they will be happy in as well as somewhere they can grow their career. This is changing the field for a lot of companies in terms of the people they are looking for. Most companies are currently looking at their culture and how they can make their employees happy to stay so they can retain their staff on a long terms basis. This means companies are often now focusing in on who would fit into the organisation in terms of personality and what they want from their career, rather than focusing in on specific skills. As one Hiring Manager said to me recently, you can teach skills but if someone doesn’t fit in culturally then that creates a whole other set of problems. This has definitely increased employers’ awareness of transferable skills making it easier to move between industries.

Salaries are also steadily increasing. A big change within ‘Science’ roles is the increasing demand for contractors. This was mainly seen in the engineering field but is increasingly becoming more prominent in laboratory and QA positions especially in the Biopharmaceutical sector. For a lot of people this is a deciding factor and a quick yes or no interest to a position or company. The main factors to take into account here are stability within a role for permanent positions or if someone is looking to get a mortgage vs. higher pay for contractor positions.

SO, HOW DO YOU CHOOSE?

New roles are coming up daily and companies seem to be announcing plans for new plants or expansions on an almost monthly basis now. My advice would be to step back and decide what you want. What are your priorities – is it career growth, is it money, is it to be happy within a company/role. Tick the boxes of what you want and then go from there. There are plenty of opportunities to move between industries so don’t narrow the field to ‘I have to stay in Pharma or Biopharma’ as both have advantages and disadvantages to what you are looking for. Instead look at companies on an individual level and what they can offer you. If you are looking for a company that can provide you with career growth – do some research and see if people have been promoted within and do they promote career progression. Talk to people – friends, people you work with etc. and get a bit more information on companies. Have they got good or bad things to say? It’s easy for one person to have a bad experience but does that seem to be the consensus with everyone you talk to about that company? Are you focused on salary – would being a contractor work for you or would you prefer to be a permanent member of staff? There are a lot of things to consider, but look at your experience so far as a whole and are there many transferable skills you can use to make the move between industries so you don’t narrow your field too quickly.