Many students whose course of study followed an intensive STEM curriculum complete their college or perhaps post-baccalaureate training look toward identifying and pursuing career options in the biosciences. For those graduating from Connecticut colleges and universities, their first option may not be the Nutmeg State. The obvious question is why not? The easy answer is that there aren’t as many opportunities as in Boston/Cambridge or San Diego or Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. While the actual number of opportunities may be fewer, the fact that Connecticut is home to some of the most innovative start-up and established pharmaceutical companies that are consistently looking for talented candidates, affords job seekers a rich variety of exciting options and a great quality of life in the State. These opportunities aren’t limited only to recent graduates but those with relevant experience.
A common complaint is that it’s difficult to know who’s hiring and what type of opportunities exist. CURE, Connecticut Technology Council, and Connecticut Innovations offer lists of companies in the state whose business focus would appeal to students, as well as those already in the workforce, who are looking for bioscience jobs. In addition, these groups sponsor networking events where those interested in bioscience careers can hear presentations from local companies, meet employees from local companies, and perhaps interact with hiring managers. Opportunities exist not only for those whose passion is to work in the laboratory, or in a research and development role, but also for those individuals who have a strong bioscience background to fill roles in marketing, sales, customer support, quality assurance, and operations. Perhaps we need to expose talented individuals to the multitude of opportunities that leverage their scientific and critical thinking skills in roles that bring significant value to the company outside the laboratory. In addition, many companies offer tuition reimbursement for pursuit of a course of study that would enable employees to augment their skill set by becoming proficient in an area outside his/her area of expertise.
For undergraduate and graduate students, the opportunity to work as an intern or with an industry partner on a capstone project is a huge benefit. Recognizing that this is a challenge for PhD students, it’s important that these students are also made aware of what type of opportunities exist outside of academics, should this be their chosen path, and what skills beyond those at the bench will enable them to secure a position at a company.
To get the talent in front of the right potential employer will require greater visibility, communication, and awareness. Many colleges and universities in Connecticut are partnering with the private sector to build internship pipelines, to develop curricula that align with the needs of employers, and to sustain a long-term partnership between higher education and employers in the state of Connecticut. These efforts need to be more widely publicized as they benefit the educational institutions, employers, and most importantly those entering the workforce. Students, who graduate from schools where their courses focus on both theory and application science and engineering, as well as in communication and critical thinking, make much better employees.
By Todd E. Arnold, Ph.D.