Now in its second year, the Life Sciences Talent Advisory Board, managed by the Life Sciences Talent Network at BioNJ, has engaged over 100 employers from New Jersey’s robust health and life sciences industry.
These employers include pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies that are researching and developing new drugs and therapies to treat various diseases affecting patients worldwide as well as others who are supporting that work.
“What is obvious about the industry leaders in our State is their passion for helping patients. It’s why we at BioNJ have incorporated the tagline of, ‘Because Patients Can’t Wait®, into everything we do. And of course, that passion is reflected in how companies identify and hire New Jersey’s life sciences talent,” explains Debbie Hart, President and CEO of BioNJ, which hosts the Life Sciences Talent Network.
The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJ LWD), which funds the seven Talent Networks that represent New Jersey’s major industry sectors, has set high goals for developing talent here at home.
This includes New Jersey’s, “65 by 25,” a benchmark to have 65 percent of New Jersey’s population obtain an industry-valued credential or degree by 2025.
The employers sitting on the Life Sciences Talent Advisory Board (LSTAB) are helping to meet that goal. Their input is resulting in the development of new training programs, evolving STEM education and identifying new career pathways for students to take in the life sciences industry.
One of these opportunities includes greater access to experiential learning opportunities, such as internships.
Employers across the industry agree that success in pharma and biotech requires technically capable candidates who have strong communication and professional skills, otherwise known as soft skills. Internships are an integral way to ensure that candidates are schooled in these and other important skills and that they are ready to work once they graduate.
Looking to capitalize on the direct input from LSTAB employers, NJ LWD announced in May the “Many Paths, One Future Internship Grant,” a $1.68 million fund that will reimburse employers 50 percent of wages paid to new interns up to $1,500.
Many LSTAB employers applauded the announcement and are already using the grant to hire and train student interns.
Princeton-based Advaxis, stepped up early to capitalize on this opportunity and has offered over a dozen internships for Summer 2017.
According to Jennifer Ramirez, Associate Manager of HR at Advaxis, “The program goal is to provide students with a career-oriented milestone experience while providing additional resources to our organization.”
Ramirez elaborated on the successes of the internship program, noting that the students are doing, “meaningful work enabling them to apply the skills learned at school, and enjoying manager commitment and engagement, employee partnership and team interaction.”
The Advaxis Internships are project-based, encouraging cross-functional interaction under the supervision of an Advaxis manager.
The company organizes various events for the students, including “Lunch and Learns,” training sessions and “Meet and Greets” to ensure the interns learn about career paths for various departments, disciplines and functions.
They are also provided personal skills building opportunities, such as Emotional Intelligence and Resume Workshops and networking mixers, like the monthly happy hour event, called “Chillaxis.”
The direct corporate benefits of the internship program include increased team productivity, new perspective/ideas and a feeder pool for talent. Through the program’s fundamental design, the team’s support and each student’s appreciation for the opportunity, the Advaxis Internship Program is a real-world display of the company’s core values: Committed, Collaborative and Grateful.
Over 60 percent of Advaxis interns qualify for the “Many Paths, One Future Internship Grant.” This new initiative is a demonstration of the State’s commitment to investing and improving students’ ability to gain relevant work experience. As a result, Advaxis will benefit from hiring future employees who are better prepared and have a solid understanding of the industry.
Companies are not the only ones satisfied with the Life Sciences Talent Network’s commitment to experiential learning.
Jeremy Wallace, a Masters student at NJIT majoring in biomedical engineering, joined Advaxis as an intern and was recently hired as a full-time manufacturing associate. “The Advaxis Internship Program encouraged learning about other departments, leading to greater understanding of the industry and giving me the chance to discover where best to take my career,” said Wallace. “The staff is very supportive. They shared personal industry experiences that helped advance their careers and how I can forge my own path.”
Wallace also explained how supervisors are maximizing the interns’ learning opportunity by creating self-assessment tests that encourage growth.
The Life Sciences Talent Advisory Board’s approach is making a difference. We are receiving positive feedback from both employers and interns about the Department’s internship grant. The grant is testament to the State’s commitment to retaining business and developing the workforce. And it’s working.
BioNJ is a network of 400 Members representing research-based life sciences companies and stakeholders dedicated to propelling a vibrant ecosystem where Science is Supported, Companies are Created, Drugs are Developed and Patients are Paramount.
Because Patients Can’t Wait®, BioNJ supports its Members in the discovery, development and commercialization of therapies and cures that save and improve lives and lessen the burden of illness and disease to society by driving capital formation, fostering entrepreneurship, advocating for public policies that advance medical innovation, providing access to talent and education and offering a cost-saving array of critical commercial resources.
For more information about BioNJ, please visit www.BioNJ.org.