Recruiting Veterans for Life Science Jobs is a Focus at BIO

Recruiting Veterans for Life Science Jobs is a Focus at BIO May 30, 2017
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

SAN DIEGO – In order to fill key positions, biotech companies are increasingly looking at potential candidates who are active military or veterans.

Potential candidates who have a military background come with a number of intangible qualities, such as leadership skills, an understanding of quality control and a knowledge of logistics. These are skills that companies can spend millions of dollars trying to teach new hires but active military or veterans already have.

“To be a part of the industry, you don’t have to be a scientist or doctor or a PhD in chemistry… the industry provides a host of opportunities to these veterans,” Rich Pascoe, the chief executive officer of Apricus Biosciences and a retired infantry officer in the U.S. Army, told BioSpace in an exclusive interview.

Although many servicemen and women may not have the science background many life science candidates possess, Pascoe said their time in the military will have taught them to be highly trainable and adaptable to new situations. Their service will have also provided them with valuable leadership skills that can be transitioned from military service to the life sciences, he said.

“Even if you’ve served in a capacity that may not translate completely into the life sciences, there are opportunities that can be found with some additional education,” Pascoe said. “There are all sorts of hard skills that can be learned. There are some great educational programs available to veterans through our universities.”

While the hard sciences may be the backbone of the biotech industry, Pascoe said companies have numerous positions that do not require that kind of educational background, such as finance or logistics. These positions are in high demand, he said.

Pascoe has a long history mentoring veterans and members of the military who are transitioning into civilian careers. When he came out of the Army in the 1990s, Pascoe said he was recruited by a company that had an active program to seek out veterans—despite his own lack of experience in the industry. But now he has gained those skills and is paying that spirit of encouragement forward.

“When you look at companies, such as Pfizer , Abbott and Eli Lilly , they have targeted military candidates, particularly those coming out of office ranks, because of that leadership factor,” he said. “It takes a lot of time to nurture leadership in individuals, so the companies see these skills and their discipline and their commitment to getting the job done in an ethical way with integrity. At the end of the day, you’re getting a dynamic with these people that can take others a long time to develop.”

In his talks with leaders of large and small companies in the life science industry, Pascoe said he has heard over and over that the most relevant experience military background candidates have is leadership. Those are skills taught, learned and repeatedly practiced in the military.

”There’s real value added that the candidates bring on day one. The veterans are very trainable because they come from an environment where training is tantamount to success,” he said.

Pascoe, who serves on the board of directors at Biocom, is working in conjunction with BioSpace to host a Talent Connect program for veterans at BIO on June 22 in San Diego. Pascoe will helm a roundtable discussion called “From Service to Life Science” that will provide useful tips to veterans looking to make the transition from military to the biotech industry. Panelists will share information on skills needed, as well as available resources for the career hunt.

“Having a venue like BIO and the BioSpace Talent Connect gives us a way to leverage the information we have,” Pascoe said.

In addition to Pascoe, participating panelists include: Sandro Garcia, former Army officer and current senior financial analyst at Illumina ; former Navy corpsman Amanda Gerber and current research associate at Menarini Silicon Biosystems; former Navy petty officer Michael Harrison, who is the executive director of Alexandria Rael Estate Equities, and Ericka Korb, a former mental health specialist in the Army and current ESTEP coordinator with the Office of Naval Research.

“We believe strongly that veterans represent a target rich environment,” Pascoe said. “We want to encourage them to look for opportunities within our member organizations.”

The program at BIO is a step forward in creating a dialogue between veterans and companies in the life science industry. Pascoe said the BIO program was a natural fit to the work he had been doing with Biocom.

“We’re going to continue to create opportunities to talk about the industry, to create opportunities to connect, reach out to the veterans,” Pascoe said. “The panel will share their experiences from their transition from active duty to the life sciences.”

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