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The Future of Work Panel: Opportunities in the Medical, Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Sector

Industry leaders, academics and researchers led a thought-provoking discussion about expected trends in the medical, pharmaceutical and biotechnology employment sector at the Future of Work Panel last Tuesday night, on 20th of March.

Hosted by Monash Tech School, the event marked a celebration of Australian organisations promoting STEM capabilities, as well as recognising the importance of connectivity between those organisations, industries and schools.

With Director of Monash Industry Team Initiative (MITI) Madeleine McManus OAM superbly moderating, a diverse audience was treated to insights of new and improved partnerships between schools, universities and industry professionals.

McManus emphasised this is leading to huge amounts of innovation and thrilling opportunities within the biotechnological sphere.

After initial introductions, keynote speaker Dr Russell Thomson from Swinburne University’s Centre for Transformative Innovation took the stage, presenting his government-commissioned research into the Australian Medical, Pharmaceutical and Biotechnologies Sectors.

What he and his team found was more than two billion dollars of profit and 22 thousand people employed (figures from 2013-2014) within this fast-growing industry.

Thomson’s message of global industries beginning to embrace what Australia does well in this particular market was reinforced by the second keynote speaker, CSIRO Research Director of the Biomedical Manufacturing Program, Dr Paul Savage.

Savage is spearheading an incredible revival of local manufacturing, fuelled by products such as contact lenses, which are cutting edge, low in volume and generate high levels of profit.

CSIRO’s world-renowned technological manufacturing, which for one thing recently began developing a sunscreen based on the UV-repelling qualities of coral, is credited to what Savage called their team's multi-disciplinary approach to problem-solving.

This ability to tackle projects through extensive and wide-ranging collaboration was a trend identified by the panel's experts as a must have for future job-seekers.

Panel members CEO of Eastern Innovation Business Centre Danielle Storey, Director and CEO of miniFAB Dr Erol Harvey, and Monash Tech School Director Ashley Van Kriekan, along with Dr Paul Savage expanded upon the value of collaboration in the modern biotechnology workplace, not only at a local perspective, but - with modern-day networking capabilities - internationally as well.

In addition to the importance of interpersonal qualities, the panel expounded upon the need for students to “skill stack”, whereby future workers must diversify their practice and experience while concentrating on what makes them unique to an organisation

Responding to a question from an audience member about the changes brought about by Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the workplace, the panel agreed that it will be the ability of future scientists to relate their one-of-a-kind combination of “skills” to solve a problem which makes humans irreplaceable.

While acknowledging to the students in the room that AI will continue to irrevocably disrupt traditional job sectors, especially in medical technologies and treatment, the panel was unanimous and optimistic in their belief of immense opportunities for those with passion and curiosity.

Overall the evening brought together what the sector means for Australians, and the local community, but more significantly emphasises the skills that the sector requires as we involve and move further into the future.

written by Adam Blau

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