Survey of skills gaps in med tech and pharma

Australia’s ‘Med Tech and Pharma’ (MTP) sector is a dynamic and critically important part of our economy, employing around 70,000* highly skilled workers across medical technology, biotechnology, pharmaceutical and digital health.

The skills of MTP workers are valued around the world and organisations in the sector invest heavily in professional development and training. However, like most sectors, skills gaps remain. While many of these are well known, MTPConnect – the not-for-profit Industry Growth Centre aiming to establish Australia as an Asia-Pacific hub for MTP companies – wants to ensure the sector is positioned for an even more dynamic future, engaging BehaviourWorks Australia to conduct a formal analysis of skills and capacity.

The challenge:
Help the Med Tech and Pharma (MTP) sector identify current, emerging and future skills gaps that need to be addressed in order to drive jobs and growth.

What did we do?

Between June and July 2020, we worked with MTPConnect to build a survey to meet its needs and establish the survey distribution methodology. MTPConnect then disseminated the survey through its extensive network of industry organisations, including AusBiotech, ANDHealth, Medical Technology Association of Australia and Medicines Australia.

MTP managers with hiring experience and HR Professionals were invited to participate. 121 respondents completed the survey, which was structured around six overarching areas to measure impressions of workforce skills across:

  • biological sciences and technologies
  • chemical sciences
  • clinical (including trials)
  • informatics, computation, mathematical and statistics
  • regulation and quality and.
  • business skills and commercialisation expertise.

Respondents were asked to comment on skills relevant to their work areas and potential problems and anticipated recruitment challenges. They were also asked to provide their general impressions about core competencies and anticipated needs in the future.

What did we find?

The Survey of Workforce Skills and Capacity in the Medical Technology, Biotechnology, Pharmaceutical and Digital Health Sector suggests more work needs to be done to support career development.

Key findings include:

  • Most respondents were concerned with a lack of business skills and commercial expertise, particularly among mid- and senior-level recruits.
  • It is becoming harder to recruit candidates with skills and regulation and quality (e.g. ‘Regulatory affairs’).
  • Almost all respondents who recruit in ‘Clinical pharmacology/translational medicine’ said there was a problem recruiting candidates with the right skills.
  • The skills most often flagged as high priorities were ‘Pharmacology’ and ‘Biopharmaceuticals/biologics’.
  • In the category of informatics, computation, mathematical and statistics, pharmacokinetic or pharmacodynamic and cybersecurity skills were seen as high priorities.
  • In chemical sciences, every skill was rated as medium or high priority by the majority of respondents.

In addition to the specific skills considered in the survey, respondents also raised some other areas of concern – often related to real-world industry and international experience.

Other areas of concern included digital skills, intellectual property, manufacturing and research skills, as well as certain ‘soft skills’ such as teamwork, collaboration, problem-solving, etc.

What next?

The survey results have been shared widely and incorporated into a comprehensive Skills Gap Analysis being undertaken by L.E.K for MTPConnect’s REDI program – a four-year $32 million Medical Research Future Fund program which aims to build the MTP workforce, address skills gaps and enhance entrepreneurship in Australia. MTPConnect is expected to release the interim REDI Skills Gap Analysis report soon.

To download the Survey results/ report, read the MTPConnect story here.

Research team: Associate Professor Peter Bragge, Director of Health Programs, and Research Fellow, Kim Borg.

* MTPConnect Sector Competitiveness Plan 2020

Research team: Professor Peter Bragge, Kim Borg.

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