Take the recent report issued by the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey. According to the report, there is a striking disparity in the state between high-demand occupations in the pharmaceutical and medical technology industries and the number of qualified workers to fill those positions. Modest job growth in this field is expected for the next four years, according to the report.
Adding to the overall problem are the low numbers of college students graduating with degrees in the subjects needed to work in these industries. Washington acknowledged this gap in April when both the House and Senate passed bills in support of the President's 2006 American Competitiveness Initiative, which aims to improve education and research in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).H.R.362 targets training, grant programs, and scholarships for teachers and students in STEM disciplines, while a second House bill, H.R.363, targets graduate fellowships and early-career researcher grants. The Senate bill (S.761) would raise appropriations for math- and science-related federal agencies and innovation projects in STEM fields. S.761 would also encourage collaboration among agencies and higher education institutions.
Every day, students demonstrate their core role in the industry. In May, for example, a Weill Cornell Medical College group helped place the heart disease drug simvastatin on the World Health Organization's list of essential medicines.
Going forward, it is in our national interest to pay attention to and support these students. The alternative—standing by while other nations take the lead on issues such as embryonic stem cell research and gene therapy—is simply not the American way, nor the path we want to set for the generations to come.
Angie Drakulich is the managing editor of Pharmaceutical Technology, firstname.lastname@example.org