Upskill now for a great career in biomanufacturing

Securing Canada’s competitive advantage in biomanufacturing will require rapidly upskilling talented Canadians so that our innovative biotech enterprises can thrive. And that’s where Canada’s Upskilling for Industry Initiative comes in.

Welcome to the bioeconomy

There’s probably no more exciting field on the scene in Canada today than biomanufacturing. So what is it, and why is biomanufacturing so important?

When we talk about biomanufacturing, we mean using biological technology on an industrial scale to produce all kinds of different goods. Think, for example, of when we use engineered microorganisms like bacteria and yeast to create products like yogurt and bread. More broadly, biomanufacturing is about using biotech to create materials and compounds like medicines, pharmaceuticals, critical enzymes, textiles, and even alternatives to plastic. 

Biomanufacturing holds the promise of doing all of this more sustainably and responsibly which is important because as we all know, our planet faces serious environmental and social challenges.

Biomanufacturing in Canada

As it turns out, biomanufacturing and biotech in Canada is a rapidly growing part of our economy. That’s because biomanufacturing is where many of our most important medicines, pharmaceuticals, and vaccine technology are produced. Canada has a long history of biotech and pharmaceutical innovation, including the discovery of insulin for Diabetes, and the very first transplantable stem cells

But here’s the thing: the COVID crisis was a severe challenge to Canada’s health system, revealing that Canada’s biotech industry was unable to cope with the need for vital medicines and pharmaceuticals. Weakness in the biomanufacturing sector can be attributed to a lot of things, including an historic lack of investment, a lacklustre regulatory environment, and trade agreements that forced Canada to rely on other countries for sophisticated pharmaceuticals. 

All of this is important, because the biotech sector is a key source of innovation when it comes to using resources generated from things like agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and even organic waste sustainably. But if you didn’t know, growth in Canada’s biotech sector is forging ahead and making up for lost time!

Biomanufacturing in Canada

Biotech firms to watch out for

Biotechnology innovation is happening right across the country, and it’s being applied in everything from agricultural supply chain management to the creation of new biopharmaceuticals. One up-and-coming new firm is Ontario’s Liven Proteins which is pioneering the use of sustainable plant-based proteins as an alternative to ones derived from animals. Or check out Picketa Systems in New Brunswick, which is using real-time plant tissue analysis to help farmers make better decisions about fertilizer use. In Montreal, GlycoVax Pharma is making waves by using sophisticated nanotechnology to help create solutions for oncology and infectious diseases. Meanwhile, Ottawa’s Spiderwort is using a proprietary cellulose-based materials technology to create solutions for medicine. 

Blazing a new path for biomanufacturing

In 2021, the federal government announced a new strategy to meet the challenge. Called “Canada’s Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy,” it is a coordinated plan not only to ensure readiness for future pandemics, but also as a way to help the country benefit from innovation in the biomanufacturing sector. With an investment commitment from the federal government alone to the tune of $1.2 billion, the strategy is designed to improve and enhance regulatory frameworks, focus on identifying and supporting existing and emerging areas of strength, and build research capacity across the sector.  

But maybe what’s most significant about the new strategy is that it’s also designed to address a critical talent shortage in biomanufacturing across the country. Indeed, a key pillar of the new strategy is to build on sector-specific investments and coordinate efforts to meet the skills needs of the biomanufacturing and life science sector. 

A critical talent shortage

So what’s behind the boom in Canada’s biotech sector, and what does it mean for you? Growth in the bioeconomy isn’t just coming from government, but from the global demand for biotech solutions. From renewable energy and vaccines to more sustainable alternatives to materials like concrete and plastic, there’s a demand for biomanufacturing innovation and talent like never before. 

But according to a report from BioTalent Canada, an industry-based nonprofit, there’s a serious shortage of skilled people who can help secure Canada’s competitive edge. 

In fact, it’s estimated that the sector will need to hire as many as 65,000 more workers by 2029

What this means is that if you’ve been thinking about making a dedicated career change, there’s never been a better time to join the biotech workforce. If you’ve got experience in a related sector, a sciences degree, or overseas experience in biotech, now is the time. If you don’t see yourself there, you should. That’s because there is an enormous opportunity for talent from under-represented and equity-deserving groups in Canada’s new bioeconomy.

Rapid upskilling a key solution

Securing Canada’s competitive advantage in biomanufacturing will require rapidly upskilling talented Canadians so that our innovative biotech enterprises can thrive. And that’s where Canada’s Upskilling for Industry Initiative comes in. By fostering partnerships between employers and training providers, the initiative seeks to develop and deliver demand-driven short cycle upskilling programs to meet the needs of employers.

Enter Palette Skills, Upskill Canada, and CASTL. CASTL is an industry-led nonprofit that stands for the Canadian Alliance for Skills and Training in Life Sciences, and is a partnership between academia, industry, and government that’s dedicated to training workers for the biomanufacturing revolution. With funding from the federal government’s ministry of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development (ISED), and in conjunction with Palette Skills and Upskill Canada, Canadian talent now has an opportunity to help grow the biomanufacturing revolution. 

CASTL delivers specialized training in biopharmaceutical manufacturing to Canadian workers through e-learning courses, in-class, and virtual theory training, in addition to hands-on training. CASTL’s Elevate program is a 10-week hybrid program that’s available for residents of all 10 provinces. 

Get to know the program 

CASTL’s upskilling program is a national initiative aimed at advancing Canada’s biomanufacturing sector through comprehensive training. In addition to on-site training, participants will gain skills required for high-demand technician roles in biomanufacturing and get 1:1 support for developing professional skills and job search support. Participants will also benefit from networking opportunities with industry employers and experts.

And in fact, it’s the professional skills development part of the program that makes it so exciting. Many employers in biotech report that candidates lack soft skills such as problem-solving, collaboration and business development skills that are critical for supporting enterprise development and key to commercialization success. With help from Palette Skills and Upskill Canada, you’ll not only get the training you need to address biotech challenges, you’ll also get coaching to help you advance your career.

Elevate Program by CASTL

Career choices in biomanufacturing

So what are some of the roles available to you in biomanufacturing? Entry-level positions include roles such as being a laboratory technician, a manufacturing technician, a production technician, or working as a process development technician. And it doesn’t end there! 

Get involved as a biofuels plant manager, a research assistant, or make a difference as a regulatory affairs specialist. In fact, there’s almost no limit to your career pathway in biotech and biomanufacturing! Right now, you can become a part of the national solution for pandemic preparedness, work in an industry that is focused on saving lives with innovative medicines, or that creates other food and health products through bioprocesses. The opportunity is here to blend your passion for science with making an impact.

Join Upskill Canada to secure your new career in biomanufacturing!

Upskill Canada is a national talent platform that helps fast-growing companies access the talent they need to compete and succeed globally, while creating new career pathways for workers to rapidly transition into high-demand roles. We want you to join with us and transition to a new career in biomanufacturing. Find out more about what we’re doing here!


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