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B.C.'s life sciences labour gap set for 11-fold increase, says report

The sector’s talent gap is projected to grow from 500 to 5,500 people by 2027
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B.C.'s life sciences sector faces competition for skilled talent with other provinces and countries.

As one of the fastest growing sectors in B.C., the life sciences labour force is falling short of keeping up with increasing demand.

That’s according to a new report from Life Sciences BC, which reveals the province is currently facing a labour gap of 500 people. And the industry association predicts in its Feb. 13 report that the figure will grow by 11-fold to 5,500 by 2027.

“This is a pivotal moment for our sector to address the growing gap between the projected supply of skilled talent and what the market in British Columbia requires now and into the future,” Helen Sheridan, chief human resources officer of StemCell Technologies Canada Inc., said in a statement.

The high cost of living, especially in cities such as Vancouver, is one of the top barriers to talent attraction and retention despite the relatively high industry-standard salaries, according to the Fostering a Globally Competitive Life Sciences Ecosystem in B.C. report.

Professionals in the sector make an average of $52.46 per hour, which is significantly higher than the average hourly pay in B.C. at $34.60.

B.C. companies are also competing with life sciences hubs in other regions and countries, as well as the local tech sector, for highly specialized professionals. However, the average compensation levels in the province are behind those in Ontario, and global life sciences hubs such as Boston and San Francisco.

“Companies in Canada also face a shortage of mid-career professionals and senior leaders experienced in the sector, primarily due to the limited scale-up and commercialization within the B.C. and Canada life science sectors compared to their global counterparts,” said the report.

“Moreover, challenges associated with international credential recognition may create barriers that inhibit the timely integration of skilled international workers.”

The report noted that 70 per cent of the sector’s new labour supply is expected to come from inter-provincial and international migration over the next five years.

The report recommends bridging the talent gap by creating a sector talent council, tapping into underrepresented communities for talent, strengthening training programs and advocating for the streamlining of work visa processes for highly skilled individuals, among others.

“We understand the work we need to do, and we look forward to the next step of immediately beginning to prioritize and implement the study’s recommendations,” Wendy Hurlburt, president and CEO of Life Sciences BC, said in a statement.

dxiong@glaciermedia.ca