BBJ Commentary: Diversifying life sciences workforce creates economic opportunity, better patient outcomes

Jun 03, 2023

By Rachel King, CEO of BIO, and Zach Stanley, Executive Director of Bioversity

The following is an excerpt from an op/ed by Bioversity Executive Director Zach Stanley and BIO CEO Rachel King that was originally published in the Boston Business Journal on June 2, 2023.

For many people across the country, working in life sciences means doing interesting, impactful work in a growing field. Moreover, the annual average salary for a full-time employee in the life sciences was more than $138,500, according to a 2022 report from BioSpace.

In Massachusetts, industry employment has grown by nearly 97% since the Massachusetts Life Sciences Initiative was passed in 2008, and the annual average wage is more than $200,000.

These impressive numbers make the life sciences industry the envy of many, but the status quo is not good enough. This industry needs a bigger talent pipeline right now: In Massachusetts alone, conservative estimates project a need of up to 40,000 net-new workers in the coming years. And we must do better to diversify the workforce at all levels. In Massachusetts, while 32% of residents identify as a person of color, only 15% of the industry workforce does, according to a 2021 MassBio employer survey.

To address these needs, career awareness and exploration is paramount. Everyone, especially those from underrepresented populations, must see themselves in a career in biotechnology. And those same people must know there are onramps to a career available to them, including into mid-career or non-scientist roles. In Massachusetts, MassBio just launched Bioversity, a 4,000-square-foot workforce training facility in Dorchester at Southline Boston (the site of the old Boston Globe newsroom) that is scheduled to open next year.

It will provide free, stipend-supported training programs designed for those with a high school degree looking to start a new career. The training will be short and intensive: 8-12 weeks, providing learners with the foundational technical and non-technical skills necessary to enter and thrive in a biotech job. Graduates of the program will be ready for jobs such as facilities management, lab operations, supply chain, or environment, health, and safety (EHS). This first step will be followed by additional career pathing tools, guided by employer demand, to help all residents access this industry.

Read the full column in the Boston Business Journal.

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