Indiana needs to address brain drain, BioCrossroads study finds

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Indiana is suffering a brain drain of science, engineering and information technology graduates, and must address it with aggressive efforts to help employers fill thousands of high-paying jobs and keep the state competitive.

That’s one finding of a new report commissioned by BioCrossroads, a life sciences business development group that has long warned that Indiana needs to do more to attract and retain talent for laboratories and clinics across the state.

Only 33 percent of in-state college biology students remain in Indiana after graduation, along with just 38 percent of engineering students, 49 percent of computer and information science students, and 60 percent of health care students, according to the report, which was released Thursday.

While graduates are leaving, jobs in health care and life sciences in Indiana are booming, and employers are often searching high and low for talent.

Jobs in Indiana hospitals, laboratories and other settings in health care and life sciences have grown by more than 22 percent since 2001, outpacing the rest of the United States and accounting for about 265,000 jobs, or one of every 10 private sector jobs, the report said. Average wages are about $70,000.

“As the most research and development-intensive sector of our economy, the growth of health and life sciences depends upon talent,” said David L. Johnson, president and CEO of BioCrossroads.

Job growth in Indiana has been robust for scientists (up 53 percent) and engineers (up 34 percent) between 2010 and 2014, the report said. That’s more than double the national growth rates.

The report recommends four strategic priorities to address challenges in the talent pipeline:

— Building a strong foundation of science, technology, engineering and math skills for Indiana students, from kindergarten through high school;

— Fostering health and life sciences talent after high school;

— Upgrading the skills of the existing health and life sciences workforce;

— Stopping the brain drain and retaining top talent.

The report cites a PricewaterhouseCoopers study that found that 51 percent life science executives report hiring is growing more difficult, with just 28 percent expressing confidence they will have access to top talent.

The report was written by TEConomy Partners of Columbus, Ohio, with support from Battelle Technology Partnership Practice.




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