Written by Myung Soo Kim, PhD, Research Analyst, Kineticos
Research Triangle Park (RTP), NC offers many attractive features for those in the biotech/biopharma industries. My colleague and Sr. VP at Kineticos, Mark Osterman, recently discussed some of the many attractive features RTP has to offer. The area is a growing hub for biotech/biopharma, and the close proximity of these companies fosters collaboration and innovation. In addition, North Carolina has a temperate climate, with many outdoor activities available, such as golf, walking trails, hiking, mountain climbing, and much more, along with a relatively low cost-of-living compared to other biotech hubs such as Boston or San Francisco. Furthermore, and most importantly, there are three top-tier universities located within 30 minutes of each other: UNC Chapel Hill, Duke, and NC State University, and nearly 1 in 5 people in RTP hold a graduate degree. With this abundance of local talent, it is a wonder why local life science companies do not recruit more heavily at the university level.
During my time as a graduate student at UNC (Go Heels!), I looked for, and joined, various clubs and organizations dedicated to helping students shape their career paths. However, there were not many such organizations available, and the number of companies involved was fairly limited. Most of the companies involved were some of the larger organizations, and not all were local. After being recruited for an internship position at Kineticos, my current employer in RTP, I began to wonder why other small/mid-size companies (in RTP) had not been more aggressive in seeking local talent at the university level.
I see two groups of people, each with an unmet need that can be provided by the other party: graduate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students who are unsure of their career path, but want and need experience to help them determine what they will do after graduating, and small to medium size biotech companies who not only need quality full-time employees, but also need cheap labor in the form of interns, that may transition into full-time employees.
My recommendation would be for these small to medium size biotech companies to more heavily recruit interns from the local universities. However, the main roadblock to achieving this goal is access to students. There are some student organizations available, which help students find a career post-graduation, such as TIBBS (Training Initiatives in Biomedical & Biological Sciences) at UNC Chapel Hill, but the number of available opportunities for students is limited due to low participation of companies, and thus very competitive. More biotech companies should endeavor to get in touch with these organizations, and periodically update them when they have a need for intern(s). Not only will this allow these companies to save some money by hiring an intern, but they will also foster local talent and encourage students to stay in the area, increasing the value and status of RTP, thus attracting more scientists and engineers to the area, which increases the status of the RTP, and so on.
My time at UNC was memorable in part due to the collegial, open, friendly, and collaborative atmosphere, something that I have continued to encounter during my time as a young professional in the RTP biotech community, and have heard echoed by others. By recruiting and retaining local talent, this friendly atmosphere will continue to grow and become one of the hallmarks of the area, differentiating it from other regional biotech hubs, along with the low cost-of-living.
Finally, recruiting alumni from the local universities may result in a higher rate of successful recruitment; like me, many alumni have fond memories of the area, and may be inclined to return – one such UNC/NCSU alumni echoed this sentiment, saying, “I think of my own experience and how returning reminded me of the value of this area.” Companies in RTP should capitalize on these factors, and in doing so, may ultimately see their businesses grow more rapidly, with higher retention of a happier work force that are invested in the success of their companies, and of the area.
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Myung Soo Kim, Ph.D., Research Analyst, is currently responsible for supporting the delivery of customized management consulting solutions to clients across the life science ecosystem. Additionally, Dr. Kim is the lead author on several Kineticos research reports.