Announcing the Life Sciences Veterans Action Network

Nov 21, 2019

By Edie Stringfellow, Director of Diversity & Inclusion at MassBio

MassBioEd estimates the life sciences industry in Massachusetts will create 12,000 new positions in the next five years. At the same time, transitioning veterans who embody adaptability, perspective, and leadership are actively seeking civilian employment opportunities. Given the range of positions and expertise necessary in life sciences companies, veterans should be an excellent talent pool to tap into. Yet, at a high-level, companies and veterans are not doing enough to make the connection and ensure that it’s beneficial on both ends. According to The Syracuse University Institute for Veterans & Military Families, 44% of veterans leave their first civilian job within a year of employment, and another 21% leave after one to two years on the job. This is often because the veterans didn’t feel they were the right fit or because they struggled to find a sense of purpose in their job.

Assuming there must be a better way to assist transitioning veterans to gain a better understanding of the life sciences job market, those positions for which they are qualified, and to educate our member companies about inclusion and retention best practices, I wondered, “What if we ask industry employees who are veterans to help interpret how military skills and job experience translates to jobs that life sciences companies are looking to fill? And what if we as an industry came together to ask companies to follow hiring and retention best practices?”

It so happens that these same questions were weighing heavily on Chuck Pappalardo, Vice President, Global Operations and Real Estate at Vertex, who is also the Executive Sponsor of Vertex’s BRAVE ERN. Vertex BRAVE is an employee resource network to support Vertexians who are veterans of the US Armed Forces and First Responders. Their mission is to create a dedicated network for Vertex employees that are veterans or family members of those that serve in the armed forces. Lastly, BRAVE demonstrates Vertex commitment to those who have and continue to sacrifice their lives to maintain our security through promoting support for all branches of the military, veterans, and first responders.

Chuck and I, alongside several members from Vertex BRAVE, came up with an idea to create a coalition focused on addressing this issue specifically. And, in that moment, the Life Sciences Veterans Action Network (LS-VAN) was born. We recruited other industry colleagues, including Quest Diagnostics, Biogen, and AbbVie, to support this initiative.

LS-VAN will be the first regional coalition of veteran employee resource groups, joining forces across the industry to scale influence and impact. The coalition’s efforts will be a data-driven, outcomes-based strategy to not only drive awareness of employment opportunities and connect veterans with the industry, but to also inspire our community to solve for the social and healthcare challenges veterans face.

LS-VAN will capture data on hiring biases and create solutions to eliminate them. And, in doing so, civilians working with veterans will gain a better sense of appreciation of their experiences as they transition to the workforce. Beyond hiring, we can obtain insight on issues affecting veteran employment in the life sciences, such as retention trends.

Addressing recruitment and retention will have the trickle-down effect of reducing homelessness and, in turn, reducing suicide due to the newfound purpose of being part of a veteran support system and a pioneering and mission-driven industry. Executive level buy-in is incredibly important to sustain our momentum and pave the way for future success. We have the ability to make Massachusetts the top destination for veteran employment.

We want as many service members to prosper in what can be a challenging transition into the life sciences industry. Veterans have an instilled sense of mission and purpose to help people, the same drive that we have to improve the quality of life for patients, everywhere, every day. There are so many talented veterans out there that inspire creativity, teamwork, and discipline to accomplish goals. Many veterans are familiar with cutting-edge technology and may have valuable security clearances. Not only do we ask of you to consider hiring veterans for their valued skillsets, but also provide them with an environment to thrive and be a part of your company’s / our industry’s success story.

We will keep you up-to-date on the LS-VAN full launch in 2020. Click here to get involved!

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