Hot Contract Staffing Niche Alert: Biotechnology

As the biotechnology industry grows, interest in contract staffing among both companies and workers in this area is also increasing, creating a hot new niche for contract staffing recruiters.

Biotechnology professionals are those who are involved in the use of living organisms to create certain products, such as engineered crops and pharmaceutical drugs.  These include a wide range analysts, scientists, engineers, technicians and specific titles such as biomedical engineer, medical scientist, biochemist, and more. According to the Bureau of Labor Statisics, employment in this area is expected to increase by 31% between 2010 and 2020.

Due to the nature of the work and the unique characteristics of the industry, some recruiters are noticing that a lot of that hiring is happening in contract staffing, so they have begun to offer contractors to biotech companies. One of those recruiters is Jim Davidson of Human Capital Resource, LLC.  Davidson's firm has provided biotech and pharmaceutical companies with direct hire candidates since 2005 but just recently started to provide contract staffing to meet his clients' need for cost-savings and flexibility.

“Many companies in this niche are older companies with very rich benefits packages,” he said. “It costs them a tremendous amount of money to hire on a full-time basis.  Not only that, they could be working on a $7 billion drug that could end up being a bust or approval could be delayed, in which case, they would have to scale back.”

When these companies do have to hire on a full-time or direct hire basis, they tend to be very selective.  As a result, Davidson is also noticing a growing demand for contract-to-direct services, which his firm can now provide.  Contract-to-direct arrangements, often referred to as temp-to-hire, allow clients to try a candidate before they make a direct-hire commitment.

Recruiter Raymond Gooch has noticed a similar trend.  Gooch and his firm, Spectrum Career, LLC, recently provided job search skills training to college students who received grants funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for workforce development in bioscience. 

"Even though the individuals participating in the bioscience training often had transferable skills, they  usually had no experience in the industry," Gooch said. "Hiring temps/contractors gives the employer an opportunity to evaluate the worker prior to making a long-term commitment."

It is also an attractive option for many biotechnology professionals.  According to the recent Randstad Pharma Engagement Study, the most important factor that drives the engagement of pharmaceutical/biotech professionals is flexibility. Contract staffing provides the ultimate in flexibility, often allowing workers to take on project-based assignments with flexibile schedules.  They also have the opportunity to take time off between assignments. This is particularly popular with older workers, Davidson said. 

“Those in the later stages of their careers enjoy it,” he said. “There is a lot of flexibility. They don’t have the same financial pressures as younger workers, so contracting becomes more attractive later in their careers.”

Davidson feels the sweet spot for recruiters wanting to place contractors in the biotech niche is smaller companies.

"A lot of the larger companies are very well organized when it comes to contract staffing and have vendor managers involved in the process," he said. "It becomes very difficult."

As the products produced by biotech companies become more and more important, we will be keeping an eye on this hot contract staffing niche!

Debbie Fledderjohann is the President of Top Echelon Contracting, Inc.

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