Express Pharma

‘A support system should ensure focused involvement of both academia and industry’

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Dr SD Gupta, President, Indian Institute of Health Management and Research (IIHMR) University Jaipur discusses the challenges being faced by the pharma industry in finding talented manpower and shares the university’s future plans and campus recruitment mechanisms with Usha Sharma

Recently, Indian Institute of Health Management and Research University (IIHMR) Jaipur conducted a discussion on the recruitment by the pharma industry. What was forecast made?

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Dr SD Gupta

In December 2014, IIHMR University conducted a national seminar on ‘Pharmaceutical Industry Perspective’ in response to academia, where various challenges faced by the industry and their expectations were discussed. Institutes need to partner with organisations to train their students so that they become skilled and employable. Since the pharma industry is facing a talent crunch and there is a need to unlock the potential of the Indian pharma market with immense opportunities, experts from the pharma industry along with educationists came together at the seminar to discuss the gaps in the output provided by the education sector vis-à-vis the need of the pharma industry.

To highlight the discussion, Hemant Dande, President, Raptakos Brett, who took part in the discussion said that the pharma industry intends to grow at 12-15 per cent per annum for the next five years and will need a workforce of about 50,0000 personnel per annum. However, the challenge is to find the right employee. He appealed to the pharma academia to make students employable through skill development programme which will be beneficial to the industry in the long run.

The recently held seminar attended by the experts has predicted that around 45000 jobs are likely to be created in 2015.

Initially, pharmacy education started with limited courses/ training centres and later got converted into training and degrees. However, after such a paradigm shift the industry still demands better and diversified education at campus itself. How can this problem be solved?

In India, a lot of emphasis is given on theoretical education and qualifications rather than practical training or work experience. Even though pharmacy education has no longer limited courses/ training centres and a large number institutions have got themselves converted into medical and training degree institutions, many pharmacy students are still taught the same old curriculum which is prevalent in the education system for many years. To overcome this demand supply gap between the industry and the academia, educational institutions must ally with multinational corporations, training institutions for internship or practical training. Educational institutions should also tie-up with organisations on specific initiatives such as guest faculty lectures providing industry insights to the pharma management / pharmacy students, internships, curriculum revision workshops, research incubation, live projects where students can directly get involved with the management of the organisation.

Pharma academia should groom students as per their areas of interest at the graduate level. A support system is needed to ensure a focused involvement of both the academia and industry. Academic institutions should develop systems and procedures to ensure that industry expectations are met without any compromise on academic aspirations. Industry should give a fresh look to its R&D efforts offered by the academia and interact with researchers at a stage when they are pursuing their doctoral degree through industry-based projects. Industry PhDs should teach in classes since they can provide real-world experiences. Apart from classes, biotech/ pharma/ healthcare industry needs to be on campus with clear offerings for internships. It has been observed that there is a major disconnect in the academia output vis-a-vis industry expectations, hence it is evident that students should be given soft skills training and trained for employability. Industries should conduct large scale collaborative projects with the students in research institutions as well.

Students should be given more exposure and hands-on experience in organisations.

Despite more than 3,000 government and private pharmacy colleges across India why is the industry facing a huge talent crunch?

The number in terms of manpower and working force in India is commendable. It is expected that the manpower in India would be about 1.2437 billion, in the year 2026 and is expected that 64.8 per cent of India’s population would be in the working age of 15-64 years. By 2020, out of the total population of 1.3 billion, it is cited that 0.8 billion population is in the working age which can be looked forward to. Research says that by the year 2022, India will need a workforce of 700 million, out of which 0.72 million will be needed by the chemical and pharma alone.

A few challenges need to be taken care of. Out of a total headcount of the available manpower, the numbers of which are extremely commendable, the industry faces a lack of skilled workforce, which means a large part of the manpower is still unemployable. Taking a look at the skill supply side one sees an exponential growth in the number of institutes and a steep decline in the quality of education being provided. It is seen that the growth of the institutes is not planned, but is a fad.

To overcome these challenges faced by the pharma industry, combined efforts need to be undertaken from several stakeholders. Considering the situation’s gravity, the government is coming up with various initiatives. A National Skill Development Coordination Board (NSDCB), coordinated by the Planning Commission was established by the then Prime Minister in 2008 with a target of skilling 700 million people by 2022. Individual states are also coming up with programmes and policies to face this problem. However, the success of these efforts without active involvement of ‘actors’ of this process is doubtful. Thus sincere efforts to ensure partnership between the source of skills (colleges, students etc.), and their destination (the corporate) are a must. It is imperative to educate them about each others expectations so that informed plans for future can be prepared.

Globally companies are reporting great difficulties in filling key roles. While most of them do have access to plentiful people they do not have access to much talent. Hence, it is important that the pharma academia trains its students with the right skill sets such as the one that drives innovation, efficiency and competitive advantage by engaging their students to involve themselves in live projects that can later become case studies.

What has been the recruitment trend in the last one decade? Do you see any changes in the trend?

A number of changes have been seen in recruitment trends. Many organisations, both government and private institutions, have begun hastening their efforts to tap the potential youth power and are keen on reaping the demographic dividend.

Today, companies are keen to recruit an individual who fits the role rather than just who fits the educational qualifications. Many organisations now have psychometric tests and tests that highlight the analytical capabilities of an individual. Companies today also focus more on the number of years of work experience along with internship terms.

Various steps have been undertaken both by the academia and the industry to select the right talent. These include the formulation of the national skills development policy, delivery of modular employable schemes, upgradation of existing institutions through World Bank and Government of India funding, as well as upgradation of training institutes under Public Private Partnership mode and setting up of the NSDCB. There are plans to establish 50,000 skill development centres. Several ministries/ departments and state governments are engaged in skill development initiatives. However, all these efforts would count for nothing, if a partnership between the source or reservoir of manpower and the destination or refinery of manpower is not maintained. It would require joint efforts from the government, talent suppliers (institutes/academia), and talent absorbers (corporates/ employers).

Can technical education play a pivotal role?

Institutions provide part time and full time courses for pharmacy students. However, one must not ignore the evolutions in healthcare and pharmacy practice which are presenting many new opportunities for pharmacists to perform functions and provide services not considered as traditional roles any more. The profession of pharmacy is working to achieve a pervasive model and standard of care determined only by the needs of patients and populations. Hence, considering the pace of the growing opportunities, it is important that technical education in the pharma education is a must. Enhanced medical infrastructure along with innovative business models and their exposure should be provided to students time to time.

The pharma industry should give a fresh look to its R&D efforts offered by the academia. Apart from classes, campus recruitments should be offered for interns.

How do you engage your students with the industry and provide them practical knowledge and update them with regulatory changes regularly?

The MBA course in pharma management provided by IIHMR University is jointly designed by academicians and pharma industry experts. Students are exposed to real life case studies and pharma industry-based examples are provided to develop technical, reasoning, planning, organising, analytical and decision making skills. Students also undergo live trainings through summer internships with various pharma companies. Dissertation reports are submitted which are further assessed by our academicians. During the two-year programme, students not only are exposed to various software and business models which are an essential part of pharma industry operations, but also learn soft skills such as leadership and self development which are included by them in dissertation reports. We at IIHMR University also invite guest personnel’s/ lecturers from the industry, who provides information on current practices and regulations from the industry.

Medical / hospital industry has been unable to attract students into the profession. Why?

It is not right to say that that the medical or the hospital industry has not been able to attract students into the profession. Yes, there is a dearth of students with no training in soft skills which is much needed for the profession. As mentioned earlier, technical education and exposure to the industry is a mission. We need to introduce specialisations even at the degree level which will allow students to plan their career in the industry.

What measures are taken into account by pharma companies while hiring?

It has become imperative for most of the pharma companies to look at the organisations’ talent needs. It has also become essential for companies to study the market dynamics to understand if the talent they need is available and if the company is equally competent to attract talent. The next step followed by the organisation is screening, where qualified candidates are selected after a selection procedure, which includes analytical tests. It will help qualify them to the next round of selection. While screening various parameters are set by the company depending on its internal compliance policies. Gone are the days when a simple resume scan followed by interviews could result in an offer. With evolution of recruitment and involvement of technology in the recruitment process, selection process is as long as eight rounds. Assessment centres which claim to have the best success rate are being implemented along with various other practices that are cost effective. Technology is being excessively used to manage and monitor the process and to reduce the time that is spent in transactional activities; instead the focus is on making the processes more effective.

Do you plan to start new courses/ programmes at IIHMR University?

At IIHMR University, Jaipur, we constantly believe in adding value in the field of academics. MBA in pharma management is a flagship course, which has been designed to develop trained professionals with requisite skills in planning and operating management techniques; diagnosing and solving management problems and acquiring consultancy skills.

The new courses introduced by IIHMR University, Jaipur are:

  • MBA-Health Economics Finance and Insurance (MBA-HEFI)
  • MBA-Human Resource Management in Health and Hospitals (MBA HRM in Health and Hospitals)
  • MBA-Logistics & Supply Chain Management in Health Care (MBA LSCM in Healthcare)

Are there any tie-ups with pharma companies for training and campus jobs?

IIHMR University Jaipur has signed an MoU with Sun Pharmaceuticals for providing scholarships to students who excel in academic performance every year. Sun Pharma offers cash rewards and certificates of appreciation to IIHMR students from MBA Pharma Management with top academic performance in the batch.

IHMR University pharma management students are recruited for summer internship, dissertation and the final jobs by leading pharma organisations like Ranbaxy Laboratories, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Abbott Healthcare, Claris Lifesciences, MSD, Zydus, Cadilla Pharmaceuticals, IMS Healthcare, ZS Associates, Nestle and many more.

During the training, students learn through assisting the manager / administrator in daily operational management, and, if possible, help the management study and address some identified issues/ problems associated with specific operational area /programme. The main purpose of the training is to get exposure about the functioning of the organisations.

In the last few years, our students were placed in various pharma organisations throughout the country and abroad. Most of them came up with reports that stood useful for the organisations.

During a training, students are expected to acquaint himself/ herself with various departments and functioning of the organisation. The training is expected to substantiate classroom teaching with practical exposure in reputed organisations.

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