Workers & Jobs
Employment and Salaries in North Carolina and the United States
In 2006, North Carolina companies employed 48,080 biotechnology workers, representing a significant portion of the nation's biotechnology workforce. In turn the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry employed 3% of the state's manufacturing workforce.1 In pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing, 288,279 U.S. workers were employed at the beginning of 2006. This includes, 230,400 workers employed in the pharmaceutical preparation manufacturing industry and 63,100 employed in biological production (excluding diagnostics).2 For comparison, pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing in North Carolina employed 19,746 workers in 2004. Strategic developers in the local policy sector aim to build a biotechnology workforce in North Carolina numbering 48,000 in a $7.7 billion market by 2013, and a 125,000-strong workforce in a $24 billion industry by 2023.3
Salaries in North Carolina's biotechnology industry remain significantly higher than the state average. The average salary across the industry reached $74,292 in 2006. Within the industry, pharmaceutical manufacturing were the highest, averaging $83,937. Public institutions have trouble keeping sufficiently skilled researchers and faculty members, due to their wages being lower than other biotechnology states.
Biomanufacturing and New Job Creation in North Carolina
North Carolina is a national leader in the growing biomanufacturing sector. The state ranks third nationwide for bioprocess manufacturing.5 Many companies, including major corporations such as Biogen Idec, Bayer and Diosynth, have located their biomanufacturing operations in North Carolina. These firms employ a total of more than 20,000 North Carolinians (see Tables 1 and 2a).6 The growing biomanufacturing industry in North Carolina will create more jobs for people with high-school education to community college degrees. These jobs require specialized training, rather than high educational qualifications that are required for jobs in research and development.7
The North Carolina Biotechnology Center strategic plan predicts that they will assist in the creation of 125,000 biomanufacturing-related jobs by 2023. The state's employment figures as of 2006 at 48,000 has put it more than a third on its way toward its goal. This has been supported by company developments; for example, Biogen Idec recently hired about 150 new workers in its RTP facility for the production of Tysabri, its new drug that treats multiple sclerosis.
Biomanufacturing commands a substantially higher pay than other manufacturing jobs, which are declining in number. The average annual wage for pharmaceutical manufacturing, a subset of biomanufacturing, was $83,937 as of the fourth quarter of 2006, and $72,500 in 2005 (see Table 2b). This must be contrasted against the average annual wage of $36,000 for all types of manufacturing. Entry-level bioprocess technicians earn $25,000 to $30,000. Their salaries increase to $35,000 to $40,000 after three years and up to $50,000 after five years.8
Skill Requirements for Biomanufacturing Jobs
The biomanufacturing industry is differentiated from other manufacturing industries by a set of strict regulations known as the current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP). Firms are subject to checks by authorities from the United States, Europe, Japan and Canada. The audits can occur as frequently as three times in three months. These regulations are necessary to enforce correct manufacturing procedures and safety standards so that consumers can be assured of buying a safe product. cGMP requirements and the high-tech nature of biomanufacturing raises the bar in terms of skills for prospective employees. For basic manufacturing positions, it is preferred that employees have high school level math, basic science knowledge (high school level chemistry and biology) as well as generic skills such as being able to write clearly, logically and legibly. More complex jobs such as quality assurance/quality control require college level science skills as well as the ability to do statistical data analysis. Jobs that pertain mainly to engineering and maintenance emphasize math skills as well as programming know-how.
Skill sets learnt from other industries can also be transferred to biomanufacturing jobs. For workers with non-bio-related manufacturing backgrounds, companies may give preference to those who have worked in government regulated industries, such as the chemical, food or cosmetics industries. Workers who deal with 'processing' as opposed to 'assembly' are also preferred because they are better able to monitor parameters such as pressure and temperature. These crucial skills are required for workers in biomanufacturing jobs. An industrious work ethic would also be imperative because the biomanufacturing process is demanding to monitor. Workers cannot take breaks at will without finding a replacement work mate because of the delicate nature of the manufacturing process. Since a mistake could cost millions, companies naturally want to hire the best workers to minimize such occurrences.
State Workforce Development Schemes
North Carolina is recognized as a pioneer and leader in providing workforce training. Recently, the North Carolina Community College System was ranked second in worker training in the nation by Expansion Management magazine.9 Furthermore, big state schools like North Carolina State University started the Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center (BTEC) which offer workers hands-on-training and industry-specific education in a low-risk atmosphere. However, to date, the program BioWork operated through community colleges has been one of the most comprehensive platform to prepare workers for North Carolina's growing biotechnology economy.
BioWork is a 128-hour introductory course that brings together the basics of manufacturing technology and the fundamentals of science, two essentials for competent, entry-level technicians in biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and chemical manufacturing.10 BioWork was developed by the NC Biotechnology Center's Education and Training Program, with support (in course development) from the biomanufacturing industry, and implemented by the NC Community College System. It prepares students for entry-level jobs in bioprocessing plants and is intended for high school graduates, traditional manufacturing workers who have lost jobs, or anyone interested in a new line of higher-paying jobs.
Firms that participated in the formulation of BioWork include Biogen Idec, GlaxoSmithKline and Bayer.11 For example, Biogen Idec aided in the review of course content and supporting materials. They also helped locate and equip a laboratory for the training. The firm participated in order to contribute to the biotechnology workforce, such that there would be a steady pipeline of workers with the correct skill sets to feed their growing business needs. BioWork is thus a recognized course in the industry. Employers would prefer workers with some background in pharmaceutical manufacturing or biomanufacturing. BioWork courses have been offered at a variety of community colleges across the state, including Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, Durham Technical CC, Piedmont CC, Pitt CC, Vance-Granville CC, Guilford Technical CC and Fayetteville Technical CC.12
- North Carolina Biotechnology Center (NCBC), Education and Training Program, "Window on the Workplace," March 2003
- North Carolina Employment Security Commission (NCESC), "Labor Market Information." Accessed on August 3, 2007.
- North Carolina Biotechnology Center (NCBC), "New Jobs Across North Carolina," January 2004.
- NCESC (fn. 2)
- NCBC, "Window..." (fn. 1)
- North Carolina Biotechnology Center (NCBC), "Biomanufacturing: A High Growth Industry for North Carolina's 21st Century Economy,"
- NCBC, "New Jobs," (fn. 3)
- NCBC, "Window..." (fn. 1)
- Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness, "Workforce Development," North Carolina in the Global Economy Project, February 2002.
- North Carolina Bionetwork, "North Carolina Biowork," Last accessed August 3, 2007. [http://www.ncbionetwork.org/index.cfm?dir=colleges.cfm]
- North Carolina Biotechnology Center (NCBC), Website, Last accessed October 22, 2004; North Carolina Bionetwork (fn. 10).