With biologics making up about 40% of the global pipeline coupled with the rise in demand for cell and gene therapies, it is no secret the biopharma industry will need an influx of talent to meet its future workforce needs. This summer, 12 organizations had a chance to connect directly with 13 rising sophomores and juniors to begin building that talent pipeline during the virtual 2020 NIIMBL eXperience held from July 21-August 13.
”The eXperience program was a fantastic opportunity to have meaningful interactions with students, beyond what we may normally get to do during a traditional job fair. Not only do we get to talk about our industry, but we also learn from the insightful questions the students asked, what their interests are and where their concerns lie, both are vital feedback as we look to enhance our talent acquisition efforts.” said Rita Wong Director, Head of Manufacturing Science and Technology at Genentech.
Developed in 2018, the NIIMBL eXperience links biopharma organizations to students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and at NIIMBL member institutions that have been traditionally underrepresented in the biopharmaceutical industry, including African Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities.
The program is unique in that it allows organizations to talk directly to students, not only to market the industry but also to understand the students’ interests and how they may find a fit in the industry that they otherwise may not have been aware of. The interactions provide excellent feedback on how companies can best recruit and retain talented individuals.
”I loved the wealth of opportunities that were available. I literally didn’t know much about biopharmaceuticals, but knowing that this is such a vast industry, now it’s like ‘where has this been all along,’” said Talia Gabrielle Scott, a student at Lincoln University.
The impact of the program will last well beyond the presentations. Organizations and students had the chance to connect directly with each other, paving the way for mentorships and possibly internships in the future. This year’s program concluded with student presentations focused on key takeaways from each session from their personal perspective.
Alani Perkin, a student at Harris-Stowe State University, expressed this sentiment during her final presentation, “I also want to stay connected, not only with the NIIMBL team, but with all of the people I have connected with during this experience and more because I know you are willing to be there and mentor me in the future.”
Moreover, the eXperience program’s focus on HBCUs and minority students, helps companies increase the awareness of biotech careers among these talented and underrepresented populations. A recent survey of biotechnology organizations noted only 32% of employees were people of color with only 15% at the executive level . Faced with this underrepresentation among its workforce, NIIMBL continues to support diversity and inclusion in its workforce development efforts.
“Talent can be found in all kinds of backgrounds and the industry will need an increasingly diverse workforce to grow, expand, and innovate,” said John Balchunas NIIMBL’s Workforce Development Director. “It was fantastic to see the excitement in the students when meeting presenters with similar backgrounds.”
2020 Virtual eXperience hosts included NIIMBL member organizations Merck, AstraZeneca, Genentech, Sartorius, Keck Graduate Institute, BioBAT, AABB, Vericel, Solano Community College, and United States Pharmacopeia, among others, and was in collaboration with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).
Applications for hosts and students to participate in the 2021 NIIMBL eXperience will be available in late October. Organizations interested in hosting a virtual session should contact Kathie Young (firstname.lastname@example.org). For more information about NIIMBL and the eXperience program visit https://niimbl.force.com/s/niimbl-experience.
 Center for Talent Innovation in Partnership with BIO. Measuring Diversity in the Biotech Industry: Building an Inclusive Workplace, January 2020.