We speak to senior leaders at pharma giant Amgen and biotech powerhouse Samsung Biologics to find out more about talent risk and to hear what they are doing to secure the best workers.

In conversation with
Arleen Paulino
Senior vice president of global manufacturing, Amgen

What has Amgen done to improve its access to talent?

Talent is always a challenge and an opportunity for us, and we are definitely seeing that with the growth in the biopharma space there is a war for talent.

In many of the regions where Amgen is located, we have formed partnerships with local universities to help ensure that students are ready to take on a role in our industry once they have completed their courses. We find that this is a very important way of strengthening the talent pipeline.

We also work with trade organizations to figure out whether there are programmes we could put in place, such as internships, to help individuals working in other industries to transition into the biopharma industry.

What kind of transferable skills can be valuable in biopharma?

Biopharma manufacturing increasingly requires advanced digital skills, which can be hard to find. There are a lot of workers in the digital space — in gaming, for example — that have the type of skills we need.

So we are looking at how we can help those individuals to make that connection and apply their talent in biopharma. I think that there will increasingly be a convergence of disciplines that are necessary to take the biopharma products of the future forward.

And are there any skills that are particularly difficult to source?

Amgen’s facilities are highly automated, and we often struggle to recruit automation engineers. They are very difficult to come by, so we are now thinking about how we can build the right curriculum to develop these skills.

A closer look
Powering the future of Samsung, one training course at a time

To keep a business empire running at full speed, talent is a priority. So Samsung Biologics, the biotech division of South Korea’s largest conglomerate, has taken control of training.

In July 2020, it signed a memorandum of understanding alongside the country’s government to establish a bioprocessing centre that would help to foster talent for a highly skilled element of the industry.

The facility, which is modelled on a similar research institute in Ireland called the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training, will help companies gain greater visibility of the talent they need. But Samsung Biologics is also stressing the need to train people as early as possible.

According to John Rim, the company’s chief executive, it is working with a local university to provide two weeks of training to fifth-year pharmacy students at its Biotech Academy training facility.

“We also provide consultancy to another local university regarding their bioprocessing training curriculum and their training facility set-up,” says Rim. Samsung Biologics is involved in South Korea’s Covid-19 response, so that pipeline of talent is crucial. The company is planning a $2bn plant at its industrial hub in Incheon, with a launch scheduled for 2022 — and will need the best people to ensure its success.

Ambitious plans need ambitious people on the ground, and according to Rim the industry’s most resilient players will recognise this. “Although we operate on a global scale,” he says, “We remain dedicated to helping the local biopharma industry continue to thrive.”