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November 18, 2012 | Tom Ballard

LifeSciTN releases report on workforce challenges for industry

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following release was provided by Life Science Tennessee. The release cites challenges faced by CSL Plasma which is located in Knoxville and announced a major expansion several weeks ago. The full report is available at


Life Science Tennessee Releases Workforce Development Report

Nashville, TN – According to a new report released today at the Life Science Tennessee (LifeSciTN) Annual Meeting and Venture Forum, a critical gap exists in the life sciences workforce, jeopardizing the growth of the state’s most innovative industries.

Life Science Tennessee, the state’s leading association for the life sciences industry produced the report titled, “The Life Sciences Workforce in Tennessee.”

“The life sciences industry is responsible for creating and bringing to patients life-saving medical devices and drugs, disease diagnostic tools, renewable energy and improved food supplies,” said Dr. Sam Lynch, President and CEO of BioMimetic Therapeutics and Chairman-Elect of Life Science Tennessee. “There is great promise for growth and investment in the life sciences in Tennessee, despite the economic downturn of recent years. One of the greatest challenges, however, is developing a highly skilled workforce to fuel that growth,” said Lynch.

According to the Batelle/BIO report on bioscience industry, the average salary for someone employed in the biosciences is $77,595 a year. These high-wage, high-growth jobs are hard to fill. The LifeSciTN report cites a net export of individuals with doctorate level degrees in the life sciences from Tennessee, while medical technicians are in short supply. Industry feedback indicates a lack of industry experience prevents higher-level graduates from being hired directly from Tennessee’s universities. At the same time, Tennessee’s institutions are not producing enough associate level students with the necessary skills in life sciences.

The report is based on a survey of Life Science Tennessee members and other life science businesses and organizations across the state. Some of the reports key findings are:

  • Approximately 93 percent of surveyed companies plan to maintain (38 percent) their current employment levels or expand (54 percent) in the next year.
  • Despite intentions to expand, the majority of surveyed companies cited challenges in finding talent locally with sufficient industry experience.
  • The lack of access to technically skilled labor is cited as a major barrier to growth.
  • General lab technician, analytics and testing, quality control and assurance, clinical affairs and regulatory affairs are specific experience-based skills are in high demand among life science employers across the state.
  • Chemists and molecular/cell biologists at the masters and doctorate levels are in the highest demand among degree-based skills.

In just one of many tangible examples, LifeSciTN member CSL Plasma in East Tennessee recently announced an expansion that will double their Knox County lab space which will require hiring approximately 60 medical lab technologists. The minimum requirement for a lab technologist is a two-year associate degree and a license issued by the state of Tennessee’s Department of Health. CSL anticipates hiring to be difficult given the statewide and regional shortage.

The “Life Sciences Workforce in Tennessee” report catalogues all of the degree programs across the state that prepare Tennesseans for jobs in the life sciences. Programs ranging from associates to doctorate degrees are clustered in East, Middle and West Tennessee. There are 12 medical laboratory technologist and technician programs across the state.

LifeSciTN is focused on creating meaningful partnerships that further the development and growth of the skilled life science workforce needed to grow the industry here. To that end the report makes several recommendations including:

  • Expand joint education programs, collaborative research projects and guest lectures to expose students to industry partners
  • Develop partnerships between higher education institutions and local industry to increase the number of external internships as a component of formal education
  • Create experientially-based education programs to increase experience in regulatory affairs and standard industry practices.
  • Advocate for state and federal workforce development initiatives that address specific industry workforce development needs.

LifeSciTN has several initiatives underway to support the development of a life sciences workforce. LifeSciTN’s networking events and Academic Alliance facilitates networking between students and researchers and industry executives.

“As the premier life sciences trade association in Tennessee, LifeSciTN is well poised to make a significant impact on all aspects of the industry including the workforce,” said Lynch.

“In addition to encouraging more students to pursue life science degrees, it is our hope that, with the support of government, academia and the private sector, an awareness of this high-growth, high-wage industry will increase across the state. As a result, top-level talent, as well as businesses, will begin to recognize the many opportunities Tennessee offers,” said Lynch.  “The result will be many more high quality jobs for Tennesseans” Lynch concluded.

About Life Science Tennessee

Life Science Tennessee is a statewide, non-profit, member organization whose mission is to advance and grow the life science industry in Tennessee through advocacy, partnerships and alignment with economic and workforce development.

Members include companies, universities, research institutions, government and economic development groups, and other industry associations involved in discovery and application of life sciences products and related services that improve the health and well-being of people throughout the world.

Life Science Tennessee conducts business and economic development activities; advocates on behalf of the industry; educates the public about the benefits of life sciences research and product development; and provides a network for the exchange of ideas, information and opportunities.


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