Is there a shortage of scientists - or too many subspecialties?

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Is there a shortage of scientists - or too many subspecialties?

Postby Andy » Mon Feb 14, 2005 8:19 pm


It's interesting that people in San Francisco are worried about bringing 10,000 people in to fill jobs. Part of the problem they face is connecting with people, and this is where networking comes in. You've got to make yourself visible. But I know quite a few very solid scientists in the area who are here and ready to go. If the biotechs can find them by way of whatever means (recruiters, networking, posting ads?), they'll have some good employees.


Is there a shortage of scientists - or too many subspecialties?

Postby Kim » Mon Feb 14, 2005 9:19 pm

To answer Lora's question:

I think some biotech companies already have plans to expand their lab/office space in the Bay area. Genentech, for exmaple, last year, set up a new manufacturing plant in Vacaville (also in the Bay area). And Genentech is also planning to expand their current campus in South San Francisco by 20 acres.

In fact, Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger considers Genetech expansion in the Bay area as one of his major achievements.

But does the building boom for Genentech translate into immediate new hire of 10,000 people in the next year? Well, as a scientist, I will believe it when I see it.
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Is there a shortage of scientists - or too many subspecialties?

Postby John_Mastro » Tue Feb 15, 2005 8:19 am

My opinion is that there is no real shortage of people that could do the jobs biotech companies want them to do. As same stated above there are plenty of those with stellar resumes out there. What is need is a change in practice and mindset by these employers. They need to invest more time and effort in training employees within their companies for positions with a shortage, they need to hire people from the outside that have the potential for being trainable in overlapping or new job skill sets. A previous poster indicates that they want to hire people with some very specific experiences, but I would suggest that many of those skill sets they lust after can be taught to the large number of older overeducated and underemployed degree holders out there. When I was in the Boston area looking for work in Biotech companies I applied for hundreds of jobs to Biotech firms. But I was ignored because my background was a little different than what was expected, but as an old lab rat I was pretty confident I could do many of the jobs advertized.
There is a structural problem with hiring practices, involving the us of HR personnel . They cannot read between the lines. Of a resume, without technical training and experience to be able to read between the lines.
Again , the hiring managers if they would open their minds to a more flexible mindset in selecting and training candidates. They will have to take a little more risk, and invest more time in retraining capable people from slightly different disciplines.

Is there a shortage of scientists - or too many subspecialties?

Postby Kim » Tue Feb 15, 2005 8:57 am

I think the parallel can be seen in the job market for computer programmers *before* and *after* dotcom boom.

During the dotcom boom, a computer science student can get multiple competing job offers before he/she even graduates. At that time, the only job requirement for a computer science student seemed to be "willing to learn". Companies were willing to invest in them and to train them. Companies even recruited math and physics students to work as programmers (and I heard sometimes English literature students, too). This was a true shortage of workers. This phenomenon has not occurred for life sciences students yet!

After the dotcom bust, the job requirments for computer programmers underwent a similar transformation into subspecialties. However, companies still complain that good people are very difficult to find. Of course, it will always be true in any field at any time. This is not a real shortage at all.

My programmer friend tells me that when he goes for a job interview now, the hiring managers simply tells him that the companies are no longer willing to spend the time and efforts to train their programmers because they are flooded with resumes. Now the software industry is expecting a "near perfect fit" for their job candidates, too.
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Is there a shortage of scientists - or too many subspecialties?

Postby MPB » Tue Feb 15, 2005 10:08 am

"In fact, I'd love to hear your analysis of what San Francisco should do to find 10,000 new biotech workers in the next 12 months. Keep in mind, it's hard to "import" people into high cost-of-living regions. You have to grow your own workforce."

Dave, I think that there are two things wrong with this.

First, 10,000 jobs in a job market the size of the SF bay area is not a huge number. These companies could probably recruit a significant proportion of that number just by asking their employees, "Do you know anyoone who wants to come work here," or offering a bonus for recommendations that lead to hires. And there are scientifically trained people from coast to coast who are unemployed, underemployed, leaving science, or recently left science because of poor job opportunities, who could do these jobs with a little training. I have met many PhDs or MS-level scientists in the last few years who work in medical marketing, advertising, publishing, and PR. About 1/3 of them left for those fields because they really wanted to do something else. About 2/3 of them left for those fields because they were tired of struggling with the science job market and because they could earn much more doing something else. Based on my own experiences, I think that there is a huge pool of idle or under-utilized scientific talent in this country. The other stories that we hear about how hard it is for young PhDs to find good jobs or do multiple post-docs, I think, supports that.

Second, just because SF-based companies need to add 10,000 employees does not mean that all need to live in the SF bay area. I work with a lot of companies in the New York and north New Jersey area that provide various kinds of support services to pharmaceutical companies. Many of these companies have employees scattered all around the country, becuase it is expensive to relocate people to NYC, and because they have learned that for many jobs, it's not necessary to have someone on site every day. Sure, some of those SF biotech jobs need to be done in SF. But many (most?) could be done by someone anywhere with a broadband internet connection, a phone, a laptop, and a nearby airport.

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