Workforce efforts paying off for life sciences in SC see more
South Carolina’s life science sector creates twice as many jobs as the average of all other sectors in the state economy, according to a recent study, but whether it can fill those positions is another matter — especially in the manufacturing and logistics side of the house.
“It has historically been the majority of the time that you find a qualified person, they already have a job in M&L (manufacturing and logistics), so it has really been tough to fill the need,” said Josh Turner, a sales executive for Modjoul, a health-focused data analytics company that serves the manufacturing sector. Turner is also a former staffing professional.
He added that staffing companies pre-pandemic were filling positions with available people even if they weren’t trained or had any experience in the field.
“All I’ve heard since the pandemic is [that] it has been hard to even find available people, much less available and qualified people,” he said.
This gap is even more prominent in a life science field that sometimes requires more than the standard specialization or training. And to add insult to injury, few in-school training programs target this unique brand of manufacturing and logistics, said SCBIO interim CEO Erin Ford.
“The life sciences encompasses so many aspects from medical devices to pharmaceutical research and development to logistics in getting the drugs or pharmaceuticals or medical devices to where they need to be,” she said. “There's just so many aspects to the life sciences. And we really, as a state, have not focused on having any specific curriculum or programs that are specialized in this area.”
She argued that while the traditional medical careers such as nursing fall under the Life Science umbrella, industrial aspects of the sector often get overlooked in the classroom.
“It’s just not even a part of the discussion as to what career you want to have,” Ford said.
Since the economic development organization formed its Workforce Development Taskforce a few years ago, its more than 300 members have aimed to do something about that.
She hopes that 2021 (or early 2022) will be the year she can see their work come to fruition through a curriculum pilot geared toward two-year students in South Carolina’s technical college network.
Students upon learning about the field may often feel intimidated by the math or science components attached to a traditional science, technology, engineering and math field, she said, but really it’s the requirements of working in a clean room in the medical device field that can prove to be the most challenging.
And that is the gap Ford hopes the program will fill.
So far, Tri-County Technical College, Trident Technical College, Greenville Technical College and Midlands Technical College have signed on to the pilot, she said, which covers a track for pharmaceutical or biotech professionals and those seeking a career in the medical device field.
“We don't want to reinvent the wheel,” Ford said. “That's why we're working with a lot of the partners to add in more substance for life sciences. So if we see that there is more for us to do, we will definitely take that on.”
Life science companies in each region have already offered up some input to their needs and will continue to do so once the program launches: Trident Technical College has its ear to the ground for workforce demands of Alcami, Charles River Labs and Vikor Scientific while Tri-County Technical College is partnering with Arthrex, Abbott Laboratories and Poly-Med. Midlands Tech has an open channel to the demands of medical device companies Rhythmlink and Nephron Pharmaceuticals.
“You’ve seen the map, right? Of the 700 life science companies? The kids just don’t know,” she told GSA Business Report, adding that it’s the job of SCBIO and its partners to share the story of the state’s abundance of life science firms and manufacturers.
Medical device manufacturer Poly-med CEO Dave Shalaby said his company usually hires Clemson University graduates and has a strong in-house program, but now that the hiring climate has become so competitive in the Upstate, he has started to advise Tri-County Tech on courses that would expose students to the industry’s ISO 1345 standards and documentation.
“And really surprisingly, it's not really geared toward the sciences as much as it's geared toward control, like how to control processes and design, and also there's a lot of statistics involved with showing proof that you're adhering to specific specifications that you've set,” Shalaby said. “So basically the course outline that we set up with Tri-County is to give them exposure to those sorts of things.”
Tri-County instructors will teach company and industry requirements, he said, and help create a workforce pipeline to Poly-med, Arthrex and Abbott.
“Tri-County is developing that curriculum now,” he said. “They’ve got sort of a draft in place, and it’s got to come back out for everybody to take a look at it and see if it makes sense to create the course.”
The course would help prime students for employment at partnering industries like Poly-med, and Ford foresees a potential apprenticeship route on a case-by-case basis. SCBIO has been in conversation with Apprenticeship Carolina’s Carla Whitlock on those possibilities.
In the meantime, Ford encouraged other industry voices interested in contributing to the program through input or partnership to get in touch and jump on board.
“Reach out to us,” she said. “Reach out to me and SCBIO, because the more industry that we can have involved in these programs, the more successful it will be.”
Arthrex, Clemson work to resolve workforce pipeline needs see more
As the biomedical industry continues to expand in South Carolina, so does Arthrex’s need for a specialized workforce.
Arthrex, a company engaged in the research, design and manufacture of minimally invasive surgical technology, announced in 2017 plans for its new $69 million facility and the creation of 1,000 new jobs in Sandy Springs. Kevin Grieff, Arthrex senior vice president of operations, said he expects to reach 1,000 employees by 2024.
A pair of programs with Clemson University helps bridge a divide between science and sales for the company’s future workforce.
Students like T.J. Biondolillo are also recognizing the need for more specialized education, especially when it comes to blending science and business.
“Both of the programs have helped my education immensely,” Biondolillo, a senior majoring in biological sciences, said in a news release. “As a biology student, who for the first two years of college had the goal of one day attending dental school, until I shadowed a neighbor who does medical device sales, I had pretty much no selling experience.”
Soon after the expansion announcement, Arthrex approached Clemson University with an educational partnership opportunity to help students develop the interdisciplinary skills to position them for success in the fast-growing orthopedic medical device field. The result was an educational pilot program designed with the needs of the global medical device industry in mind.
Arthrex has since expanded its partnership with Clemson, which is just 10 miles from the Sandy Springs location.
Working with the academic leaders and the Clemson University Office of Corporate Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives, the company has created scholarships and two certificate programs.
“Arthrex takes great pride in its commitment to education and we are pleased to help develop the next generation of highly skilled professionals like Arthrex technology consultants who work with orthopedic surgeons to provide trustworthy technical product support,” Arthrex President and founder Reinhold Schmieding said in the release.
The Sales Innovation Certificate Program and Orthopedic Medical Device Product Specialist certificate programs are designed to enable students from any major to explore medical device technology consulting. Through the programs, students gain knowledge of medical devices and techniques, and gain an introduction to the sales and marketing aspects of medical products. The programs are intended to create a strong pipeline to help support Arthrex’s growing needs in this area, according to the release.
More than 10 students in the Sales Innovation Certificate Program have been hired by Arthrex in the last two years.
“Through the strategic partnership with Arthrex, we have worked together to develop one-of-a-kind workforce development programs to support an integral partner need,” Angie Leidinger, vice president of external affairs for Clemson, said in the release. “The success of the pilot programs has showcased the talent of our faculty and students, and we’re excited about the opportunity to continue engaging with Arthrex in mutually beneficial ways that will strengthen educational outcomes while providing them with top-tier talent.”
After learning about the certificate program, Biondolillo said he jumped at the opportunity to gain the targeted knowledge in medical device sales.
“The Sales Innovation Program has improved my selling skills and taught me the principles of being a great salesperson and the Orthopedic Device Product Specialist Program has improved my product knowledge from materials used in devices to diagnosing issues and being able to properly convey product benefits,” he said in the release.
The Sales Innovation Program coursework is tailored to develop students’ business acumen, selling frameworks and presentation ability in order to equip them for roles in health care and medical device sales or related positions. Through the program, students also take part in real-world challenges, foundational role-play exercises and leadership opportunities, the release said.
The Orthopedic Medical Device Product Specialist Certificate provides students with core competencies in the orthopedic medical device industry with a focus on managing a product throughout its life cycle, including product development and performance relevant to clinical use, and communication of its commercial value.
In addition to the certificate programs that provide students a pathway to learning about medical device sales, the Arthrex Scholars program provides scholarships to those same students, according to the release.
Arthrex Scholars was announced in 2019 as a two-year pilot program, with the first scholarships awarded in 2020. Fifteen students pursuing medical device sales careers will receive $5,000 scholarships and a potential summer internship.
“Under the direction of Ryan Mullins, our Sales Innovation Program has shown an ability to connect students with companies like Arthrex that can potentially lead to sales careers with those organizations,” Jennifer Siemens, department of marketing chair, said in the release. “Arthrex’s investment as an innovation partner in our Sales Innovation Program helps students financially and potentially creates a pipeline to our best and brightest as their next generation of employees.”
Managed by the Department of Marketing and the Sales Innovation Program team, applications open during the fall semester and are awarded the following spring semester.
Arthrex also works with Clemson on several research projects, including a NanoScopeTM Surgical Imaging System reprocessing assessment with bioengineering associate professor Melinda Harma, according to the release.
Workforce a focus for Upstate South Carolina initiative see more
UPSTATE, S.C., APRIL 17, 2019 — Upstate industries have invested more than $20 billion and announced nearly 63,000 new jobs in the last 13 years.
To help Upstate employers sustain their economic momentum, the Upstate SC Alliance launched a regional talent attraction initiative at its 2019 Annual Meeting, with nearly 500 business leaders in attendance.
The initiative, “Move Up” includes a brand and website, MoveUpstateSC.com, which promote job opportunities and quality of life across the 10-county Upstate region.
“Workforce has quickly become a top factor as companies consider whether to locate or expand in our region,” said John Lummus, Upstate SC Alliance President & CEO. “Our region has the right ingredients not only to meet business needs, but also to provide fulfilling careers and a rich lifestyle. Move Up is here to help employers and our communities tell that story.”
Upstate employers can use MoveUpstateSC.com while recruiting candidates in a variety of professional fields, including: manufacturing + engineering; financial services; information + communications technology; education; life sciences + healthcare; architecture, construction + engineering; and creative services.
The Upstate SC Alliance worked with Development Counsellors International (DCI) to create the Move Up brand and website, with support from the Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce, the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce and Ten at the Top.
Target audiences include established professionals in multiple industries and college students looking to launch their careers.
The website includes interactive community profiles, facts and stats about Upstate living, an overview of industries, and a job board.
In addition to the resource being a tool for Upstate employers, it will be supported by a digital marketing campaign.
Nine Nephron employees to earn their Community Pharmacy Technician certificates at no cost... see more
Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. is partnering with Apprenticeship Carolina to provide nine Nephron employees a chance to earn a Community Pharmacy Technician certificate at Midlands Technical College. Apprenticeship Carolina is a division of the S.C. Technical College System. Read on for full details.