Preparing the pharma sector for the post-COVID world

Neeti Sharma, Senior VP, TeamLease Services expounds on some measures that need to be taken in the pharma industry to adapt to changing requirements and explains why it is essential for the sector to reskill, upskill and new skill (RUN) its workforce
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Catering to over 50 per cent of global demand for various vaccines, the Indian pharma industry is touted to hold an important position in the global pharma sector. The sector is also the highest generic drug supplier globally and supplies 40 per cent of generic medicines in the US and 25 per cent of all medicines in the UK.

The industry was expected to grow to $100 billion, while the medical device market was expected to grow $25 billion by 2025. Apart from this, India’s biotech industry, which includes biopharma, was expected to grow at an average growth rate of around 30 per cent a y-o-y to reach $100 billion by 2025.

The coronavirus pandemic offset the incline of pharma companies, with demand for medicine and healthcare tools increasing. However, with the supply chain broken, the supply of required healthcare products started to decrease at an alarming rate. Due to the onset of COVID-19, this sector has become one of the busiest sectors in the Indian market.

However, in order to adapt to the changing requirements, the sector is required to reskill, upskill and new skill (RUN) its workforce.

The various aspects that would bring about a transformation in the industry and the measures that should be taken to prepare the workforce to meet the requirements of the industry include:

Changes in lifestyle: COVID-19 had paused time for many people, at least in the initial months, when the positive cases were increasing at an alarming rate. Health and safety took prominence in people’s lives. Our way of greeting, commuting and even eating has changed drastically. By the time the pandemic ends, these habits will have become a norm. These lifestyle changes will boost the pharma industry, making it one of the few industries that will thrive immediately post-COVID. The pharma industry needs to strengthen its supply chain to reduce dependence on foreign countries and deliver to the growing consumer needs.

Evolving healthcare models: The government needs to invest in healthcare models to increase the production of pharma supplies. Similarly, it needs to strengthen its private-public partnerships to adapt in the post-COVID world. The pharma supply chain model also needs to change from purely physical to partly physical and partly virtual. Workers need to re-skill themselves to learn the new technology required to streamline the evolved healthcare models and supply chain systems.

Changes in workplace patterns: The low attendance of workers due to the lockdown caused a dent in the productivity of the pharma industry. In order to meet the increasing demand for health and safety supplies, the pharma sector was forced to recognise the gaps in the workplace and work towards solving them. With work from home being the safest mode of working, the organisations had to transition to digital work culture. Post-COVID 19 will witness a restrictive workplace pattern as the workers adjust to remote work environments while developing their technical and behavioural skills.

Apprenticeship-linked learning: The changing world requires a highly-skilled workforce to rebuild the pharma industry. To take advantage of the industry’s forecasted upward spiral and streamline the supply chain, there is a need for change in perspective and fresh training that can be brought in through apprenticeship programmes. Apprentices can bring in their current skills as well as digital prowess and integrate them with their training experience to deal with the post-COVID-19 changes. In the meanwhile, blending the traditional learning methods with digitalised learning mechanisms can help maintain continuity in learning and to train the apprentices.

Degree-linked learning: The pharma workforce, to remain employable, need to learn a broad range of skills. Instead of having linear roles and functions, the workers will have to take part in roles outside their area of specification. Skilling of workers will be the biggest requirement after the pandemic, which can be achieved through degree-linked learning. This will allow pharma workers to develop their skills and knowledge while giving them the opportunity to earn a university certificate.

The technological aspect: As mentioned before, technology plays an important role in the development of the pharma industry. Updated technology can help with the research and development of the coronavirus vaccine as well as preventive measures, which are the top-most priority in today’s time. Teleconsultations and telemedicine have become necessities and will continue to be so even after the pandemic ends. Updated technology can also help in faster and cost-effective production of healthcare supplies and medicines as well.

Therefore, while the companies will have to work hard at maintaining the workforce’s health, welfare and safety, they will also have to focus on building a digital infrastructure for increasing productivity in the post-COVID market. To remain successful the pharma industry will need to remain resilient and devise strategies to promote an innovative work ecosystem.

Apprenticeship-linked learningCOVID-19Neeti Sharmapharma sectorpharma workforcereskillSupply ChainTeamLease Servicesupskillworkplace patterns
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