The lead paragraphs, including the throwing-down of the S-word:
After years of belt-tightening, the biotechnology industry is starting to see signs of recovery. “Companies are definitely hiring,” says Kerry Boehner, an executive recruiter at pharma and biotech recruiting firm KOB Solutions. “I’m extremely busy, and most recruiters I know are very busy.” Large numbers of newly minted Ph.D.s looking for jobs should provide no shortage of talent, yet employers say they can’t find enough qualified candidates to fill their open positions. “The industry has reinvented itself,” Boehner says. “Companies have very specific skill sets that they’re looking for, and they’re not willing to compromise. They’re willing to wait until they find the ideal person."
[snip] The shortage of skilled workers in the biotech industry is emblematic of a broader skills gap problem that has developed in many other sectors, from nursing to information technology to advanced manufacturing. According to staffing firm ManpowerGroup’s 2012 Talent Shortage Survey, released last month, 49% of U.S. employers reported experiencing difficulty filling positions that were critical to the mission of their organizations.So, class of 2012, you're lacking. What are you lacking in?
New Ph.D.s are increasingly finding that their academic credentials are just not enough to get them a job, because companies are looking for candidates with industry experience, whether from an internship or full-time employment. “The reason industry experience has become more important is because there are more people out there looking for jobs,” says Debbie S. Yaver, a director of R&D at Novozymes. “You somehow have to separate them, and one criterion is, ‘Do they have some industrial experience?’"Key skill sets":
“What we’ve noticed, within the time span of about 10 years or so, is that it’s now completely reversed,” said (Stephan) Rodewald, who is a research chemist at Goodyear Tire & Rubber. “We have trouble filling all the interview time slots with candidates that we think are qualified for the positions that we have. And when we actually take a chance on them and invite them out for closer scrutiny, often we find that they’re really lacking in terms of key skill sets.” Rodewald believes that graduate students aren’t getting the preparation they need to work in industry. “It may be a situation where the time that is available for professors to spend with their students and to ensure that they get proper training has just diminished,” he said.
...They’re also seeking candidates with the right combination of soft skills for the job. Companies are looking for people who “have exceptional communication skills and the personality to work in a team,” Boehner says.
...Cubist Pharmaceuticals, in Lexington, Mass., recently revised its hiring criteria to reflect its changing expectations. “We look for talent that not only has that key experience and the specific knowledge that most companies are looking for [but also] key competencies or personal attributes that are critical to where the organization is going from a strategic perspective,” says Debbie Durso-Bumpus, director of talent acquisition at Cubist. “I think because we look at it from four to five different perspectives, finding that right individual is a little tougher than if you were just to say, ‘Do they have the right experience and education to do the job?’ ”
...“The old model of education was to complete an apprenticeship and learn from the master,” says Judith A. Kjelstrom, director of the UC Davis biotechnology program and program manager of the DEB graduate program. “Universities drifted away from that model over the past 30 years to a model focused on didactic learning without offering on-the-job training. Our program addresses these shortcomings.”
...UC Davis graduate Amanda J. Fischer completed a three-month internship at Novozymes while participating in the DEB program seven years ago. Fischer, who is now a senior scientist at Novozymes, says that interning for the company gave her a clearer understanding of what is needed to be successful in industry. “I realized that team building and building relationships are really critical in industry,” she says. “Also, in industry not all the questions need to be answered. You should focus your efforts where the outcome will lead to product innovations that can benefit the company.” Now in a hiring capacity herself, Fischer is looking for candidates who have industry experience. Her biggest concern about candidates without industry experience is whether the environment will suit them and whether they’ll be happy “with the way the projects flow,” she says.What should you do, class of 2012? Well, they do have useful recommendations there (emphases CJ's):
For now, it’s up to individuals to pursue the industrial training they need. “If I were advising graduate students on how to make themselves most employable by industry, I would say to find yourself an industrial internship while you’re in graduate school,” Shulman says. “Take a summer off, and even if it slows you down getting your Ph.D. by three months, the fact that you’ve seen what goes on in industry is going to make you more attractive to a lot of companies.”
An internship isn’t the only way to gain industry experience, however. Taking some time off between undergraduate and graduate school to work in industry can also be beneficial. Such candidates “would also rise to the top for me,” Novozymes’ Yaver says. “They have at least some perception of what the difference is between an industrial research setting and an academic setting.”
Another way for recent Ph.D.s to gain some industry experience is to seek out an industrial postdoc or even a temporary position, Shulman says. Companies are increasingly looking for such short-term hires because they enable a firm to evaluate potential candidates to fill permanent positions, he notes.
For job seekers who don’t have industrial experience, Durso-Bumpus suggests they focus their job search on larger companies that might have more resources to train new employees. “As a midsize organization, we prefer people who had been there and done that and could do it again,” she says of Cubist. “Although as we continue to grow, we’ve actually gone to the market with more entry-level positions that we didn’t necessarily have in the past.”Well, there you have it, class of 2012. Go get that industrial experience (good luck!)
The apparently inability of any industrial hiring managers to fully point to any actual missing skill sets (other than vague statements that they're missing) is a really important piece of the #chemjobs problem. I'm more than willing to buy into the thought that academia is training young chemists with the wrong techniques or doing it in the wrong manner (e.g. the career advisor's comment that "Universities drifted away from that model over the past 30 years to a model focused on didactic learning without offering on-the-job training.") But once again (in this article, and elsewhere), very few actual missing skill sets are on display. Rather, it's just the assertion that remains.