Australia has a thriving clinical research industry, especially early-phase clinical trials, and we are highly regarded internationally for the quality of our medical research, scientific innovation and manufacturing of therapeutic goods.
Recent trends have seen the offshore manufacturing of medicines take place in the last two decades, however, this meant during the pandemic Australia had to rely on other countries supplying our vaccines and PPE, leaving us open to a sovereign risk by not having manufacturing capabilities onshore.
While there is a big push, and many government incentives, surrounding the Medical Technologies, Biotech and Pharmaceutical (MTP) sectors in Australia, the biggest challenge remains the skills and talent shortages.
It’s for this reason, The Migration Agency, together with life sciences industry body ARCS Australia, was involved in releasing the Workforce & Capacity Summit White Paper, which proposes a National Competency Framework for patients, industry growth, Australian exports and jobs within the MTP sectors.
In this blog, Sarah Thapa, The Migration Agency’s Managing Director, explains why the framework will benefit employers and organisations, and bulletproof Australia’s economic future.
Creating a sustainable workforce for the life sciences industry will bulletproof Australia’s future
“The Australian work visa system doesn’t allow organisations to retain talent for the long term if they are not defined as Medium to Long Term Skill Shortage Occupations. It’s really not meeting the needs of the life sciences industry, which has most of their occupations on the Short Term Skilled Occupation List or not even defined at all,” Sarah said.
The Australian MTP industry develops, manufactures, and supplies medicines, other pharmaceutical products, biologics and blood products, medical devices and diagnostics, employing more than 70,000 workers and exporting more than 7 billion dollars’ worth of locally manufactured goods each year – that’s around 14 per cent of all Australian manufactured exports.
“Advocating for better visa pathways is an important component to building a more sustainable workforce in the life sciences industry, as immigration will be a key component to this,” she said.
A National Competency Framework will ensure industry qualifications, training, and experience – underpinned by standards – will grow and enhance Australia’s already high-performing MTP sector. This will also underpin the definitions of the skills required by the industry for the purposes of skilled visas.
Recommendations will help critical skills shortages
There is an immense opportunity to position Australia as a go-to destination for global talent and also to showcase the fruits of our innovative Medical Technologies, Biotech and Pharmaceutical (MTP) sectors.
Australia’s vibrant, research-based manufacturing industry will only bring opportunities for substantial, skilled employment to help close the skills shortages gap.
Therefore, the Workforce & Capacity Summit White Paper recommends the following:
- The establishment of robust and comprehensive national competency standards for the key professions that service the MTP industry. These standards should align with those already established in Australia and overseas and provide the elements of nationally consistent training programs.
- The development of a national training curriculum for key professions linked to the competency frameworks.
- Stronger and more coordinated outreach to tertiary institutions to increase awareness of the sector and the existing and emerging career opportunities, while also facilitating the development of “job–ready:” entrants.
- ARCS and its industry partners should take a more active role to engage with government policy in order to realise the economic development and employment opportunities identified by this summit in the areas of:
- Targeted manufacturing support specifically for mRNA, APIs and commercial fill and finish.
- A range of ecosystem support policies including: tax incentives, workforce and training policy and visa and immigration policy.
We need to improve current migration frameworks
Effective and efficient visa pathways are needed to address short–term needs, which cannot be met locally, along with increased awareness of these pathways within the sector.
There are also concerns regarding inconsistent assessment processes at different stages of the professional journey when hiring international talent, and inadequate definitions among the prioritised occupations lists. An inadequate understanding of the currently available migration pathways, which in turn results in underutilisation of visa programs, is also a valid concern for the industry.
It is for these reasons that The Migration Agency has already started working with ARCS to advocate changes within the government to create longer-term visa pathways for talent in the industry. A first round of submissions were issued this year, and further engagement is planned.
Learn how to diversify your workforce and close the skills gaps
At TMA, we believe the current skill shortages can easily be solved by increasing the pool of skilled workers and talent that organisations have access to – including local and international talent.
And there are many options for organisations to take advantage of a diversified local and international workforce. Contact the skilled team at The Migration Agency to learn more