UK pharmaceutical companies are not doing enough to attract fresh talent to the industry and face serious future recruitment issues if they don't get their act together now, warns a new report.
While demand for experienced candidates is rising, provision for graduate and market entry training within pharma firms is in decline and as a result, in the short-term the industry is facing a candidate-driven market with spiralling salaries and, in the long-term a serious skills shortage, states the report, conducted by pharma recruitment firm Blue Pelican Group.
"The current market is already experiencing an exodus of highly skilled candidates," said Oliver Leger, executive search consultant at the Blue Pelican Group.
"However pharmaceutical companies are not investing enough in training programmes; very few visit universities to tempt graduates, and for those who are tempted there are few openings for them because of lack of training."
The research also found a number of weaknesses in pharma companies' recruitment practices, and suggests this could lead the industry missing out on talented candidates.
79 per cent of pharma recruitment consultants surveyed said they are currently experiencing recruitment issues, with 86 per cent stating that this related to lack of candidates deemed to be suitable by the pharmaceutical industry.
The report says that recruitment is generally more effective if handled by line-managers able to interpret qualifications and expertise on an applicant's CV. But it says, due to time constraints, in most cases recruitment is now being handled by heavily taxed human resources departments.
Added to that, with only 50 per cent of human resource professionals coming from a scientific background, 57 per cent of those surveyed say skilled candidates are being rejected without adequate feedback, causing acute frustration among applicants.
But how does the pharma industry respond to these findings? According to drug maker AstraZeneca, not all pharma companies are to blame.
"There is no denial of a skills shortage in the pharma industry, but we are being pro-active and are working hard to do something about it," Jez Chance, HR spokesperson at AstraZeneca, told In-PharmaTechnologist.com.
"It's is unfair to suggest that pharma companies, and the way they handle recruitment and training, are responsible for this shortage."
He insists that his firm has a hybrid recruitment team composed by HR people and headhunters, who have a scientific background and have a great understanding of the pharmaceutical industry.
"Our modern and flexible recruitment team is working very closely with the line-managers to understand exactly what they are looking for," he said.
Furthermore, the firm believes attracting and retaining employees is crucial and it is in collaboration with governments and educational structures to encourage students to take up subjects relevant to the pharma industry. But the company also provides its staff with training opportunities and leadership programmes.
When asked about the potential exodus of new skilled candidate, seeking jobs abroad, Chance points to the advantages of placements abroad for staff.
"There are plenty of opportunities in the UK's pharma industry, but we will see more global talent management in the future, as job mobility is a good thing for employees to broaden their skills."