• Need help? Call us now! 508-229-2010
Get Social with Us!

Boost biotech, stem ‘brain drain’

BOSTON HERALD – by Tim Cummings – Last month, roughly 75,000 incoming freshmen began college at one of Massachusetts’ institutions of higher education. Upon graduating, however, far too many of these students will put their world-class educations to use elsewhere.

For years, this post-graduation “brain drain” has been the status quo in Massachusetts. But now, high-quality jobs in our state’s flourishing biotechnology sector have the potential to stem the exodus.

Local colleges and universities can — and should — encourage careers in Bay State life science industries with courses that emphasize the requisite skills. Preparing students for opportunities in biotech will help ensure that, come graduation, the brightest graduates stay put and advance growth in Massachusetts.

Nearly 37 percent of freshmen in 2010 came from outside the Bay State’s borders.

But a year after receiving their degree, a mere 52 percent of 2008’s graduating class was still living in Massachusetts, according to a recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Many have chalked up the yearly exodus of young graduates to factors like high housing costs and a subpar public transit system, particularly in the Boston area. But, according to the Fed study, nearly 60 percent of recent graduates move for job-related reasons.

It follows, then, that retaining graduates is a matter of providing satisfying, high-paying jobs that are suited to their talents. To address this, we should leverage the life science industries in which Massachusetts already dominates. Our state’s biotechnology sector offers opportunities that can’t be found anywhere else.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bay State leads the nation in biotech research jobs. Those employed by the state’s more than 500 biopharmaceutical firms earn an average of over $114,000 a year. By attracting recent graduates to this field, we can stem the outflow of talent, while strengthening an industry that contributes over $16 billion to our state economy.

At colleges and universities this means focusing on departments and programs that equip students with the skills that biotech firms demand — from scientific research and engineering, to economics and marketing.

And schools should be working with economic development groups to identify opportunities outside the Boston-Cambridge nexus. Marlborough, for example, has developed a life science cluster that is growing rapidly, and roughly 10 to 20 percent of the city’s jobs are now in the biotech sector.

A want of satisfying work is no longer a good reason for the most talented products of Massachusetts colleges and universities to take their skills elsewhere after graduation.

This op ed originally appeared in the Boston Herald. Tim Cummings is executive director of the Marlborough Economic Development Corp. “As You Were Saying” is a regular Herald feature.