MassBio Launches Nonprofit to Fill Hiring and Diversity Gaps in Massachusetts

Bioversity, Courtesy photo

Pictured: Bioversity/Courtesy image

MassBio, the nation’s oldest biotech trade association, announced plans on May 24 to launch Bioversity, a non-profit aimed at upskilling and training those who would not typically enter the life sciences workforce to fill entry-level roles in Boston.

According to MassBio’s website, Bioversity will address two key pain points in the industry: the current education and training system cannot produce enough talent to keep up with demand and the workforce as a whole lacks diversity.

Zach Stanley, executive director of MassBio, told BioSpace that as the industry grows, so does the gap in available jobs and candidates to fill them. 

A report released Wednesday by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation confirms this. Though industry jobs in Massachusetts are expected to grow by 32% (nearly 42,000 net new jobs) by 2032, the level of future demand is expected to exceed available supply, and this gap is only exacerbated in entry-level roles. 

Stanley said one reason for this is the high turnover in these roles. Because companies often recruit highly-educated candidates for entry-level roles, those employees often leave the role quickly, either due to a promotion in-house or a competing offer. 

Bioversity can help solve this by bringing individuals into the industry who may not have formal education or previous training but are fully capable of performing the tasks the roles require, he said. 

The training programs at Bioversity will be available to anyone with a high school diploma or GED at no cost to them, and anyone who participates in the 8-12 week programs will receive a stipend, removing the cost barrier for those who cannot afford to take unpaid time off work. The graduates of the training programs will then fill entry-level roles in various areas, such as facilities management, lab operations, supply chain and procurement and biomanufacturing. 

Stanley also emphasized the benefit of the training programs for employers. He said that because these candidates will graduate from the program with hands-on experience, they’ll require less training than most entry-level candidates. 

“If we’re successful, we believe our graduates are not only going to be work ready on day one, but they’re going to be successful,” Stanley said. “So much so that the companies will want to promote them to additional roles and responsibilities. And that’s a good thing for everybody involved.”

If the candidates do move out of the entry-level roles, critics may point out that the company would spend time and resources to fill the role again, just as they would with a more formally educated employee. This is mitigated, Stanley said, by the size of each recruitment class. The goal, he said, is to graduate 100 people in 2024 and move them directly into the workforce. 

Bioversity isn’t the only one of its kind–there are many life science training programs across the U.S. However, Stanley said it differs in two ways: efficiency and scalability. He said many other programs last anywhere from six months to one year and typically graduate anywhere from 20 to 30 candidates annually. 

Before his team can reach this goal, he said, they have to find enough applicants to commit to the program. 

“Even in Massachusetts, where we have such a density of this industry, there’s still a very low understanding of what these companies do and what the jobs are like,” he said. “That will be a big hurdle–to not only build trust but to educate folks about why this type of job would be really enticing.”

Applications for the first class to enter Bioversity’s 4,000-square-foot campus will open in September, and the first cohort will begin in January 2024. 

Rosemary Scott is an editor at BioSpace, focusing on the job market and career development for professionals in the life sciences. You can reach her at rosemary.scott@biospace.com and on LinkedIn.

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