By Jun Ji-hye
Pharmaceutical and biotech companies have emerged as growth engines that will fuel the economy in the coming years. But they are struggling to secure qualified employees to conduct R&D and other work, according to company officials, who demand the government do more to nurture talented workers.
The firms have been facing difficulties in securing necessary manpower due to a lack of experienced applicants, especially for R&D positions, cited as core manpower for companies.
According to the Korea Biotechnology Industry Organization (KoreaBio), Thursday, pharmaceutical and biotech firms failed to fill most of the job vacancies in 2018.
Among others, companies filled only 77.2 percent of the R&D positions with new hires.
The rate of filled vacancies for sales and management positions stood only at 86.4 percent, and that for quality control positions at 86.8 percent.
KoreaBio said it had surveyed 200 companies from Aug. 17 to Sept. 7 last year.
Notable is the fact that companies failed to fill the job vacancies not because of a lack of applicants, but because of them lacking the skills and professional knowledge required.
In the survey, 75.2 percent of companies cited knowledge in the relevant fields as a major requirement for research jobs, while 69.7 percent cited a hands-on background.
Officials from pharmaceutical and biotech firms said a shortage in professional manpower will not be resolved in a short time, calling on the government to come up with support measures to promote the industries.
"As pharmaceutical and biotech industries have received attention as new growth engines to drive the nation's future, the government needs to be more active in establishing infrastructure to cultivate talented workers," an official from a biotech firm in Seoul said.
"In reality, the R&D department prefers those who hold Master's degrees or more. The government needs to work to help those with bachelor's degrees improve their capabilities to fulfill the requirements of companies."
He added that the government needs to encourage universities to offer consistent education programs designed to train professional personnel needed for companies.
An official from a pharmaceutical firm based in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, noted that not only those who work for the R&D department but also those working for assistance units such as the PR department need to possess professional knowledge as pharmaceutical and biotech firms deal with a lot of expert knowledge.
She said an increasing number of incumbent workers are applying for graduate schools to develop their abilities further, with some of them studying at their own expense.
"I hope companies will come up with more diverse programs to help incumbent workers improve their skills and expert knowledge," she said. "For that, government support will be necessary."