Fastnet - The Talent Group: Supporting today's graduates

Posted on: 24 Oct 2017

Fastnet - The Talent Group: Supporting today's graduates


Fastnet can help those who want to take the first step to making a difference with a career in life sciences.

For today’s graduates, one of the biggest appeals of a career in life sciences is the fact that it offers them an opportunity to make a real impact.

According to Niamh O’Driscoll, managing partner of talent and recruitment consultancy Fastnet – The Talent Group, the current crop of millennials entering the job market cares about more than just a wage packet.

“Today’s graduates have vastly different expectations to previous generations,” said O’Driscoll.

“One thing that stands out is that they seek greater purpose in work, they don’t just want to come to work to take home a pay cheque, they want to work for a company they are proud of and where they feel they can make a difference.

“The difference you can make is very tangible in the life sciences sector where you are genuinely making an impact on people’s lives. From the development of ground-breaking drugs to making artificial limbs or implants, this is work that you know is going to save lives, prolong lives and ultimately offer people a better quality of life.”

As the market leader in the life sciences sector, Fastnet is uniquely placed to understand and address the trends and challenges involved in this flourishing sector.

Established in 1999 and headquartered in Little Island, Co Cork, the innovative talent and recruitment consultancy provides a diverse portfolio of talent solutions to many leading multinational and indigenous companies.

Niamh and her father, Pat O’Driscoll, were founding directors of Fastnet. Pat’s previous career spanned 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry having worked with Pfizer and later FMC as general manager, Europe.

“From the outset we had a very specific strategy in terms of being niche specialists, rather than trying to be all things to all people,” said O’Driscoll.

After almost two decades in business, O’Driscoll believes there has never been a better time for graduates entering the sector.

With nine of the top ten global pharmaceutical corporations based in Ireland and a medtech sector that has become one of the leading clusters globally, Ireland is today the world’s eighth-largest producer and fifth-largest exporter of pharmaceutical products and the second largest exporter of medtech exports in Europe.

The biotech manufacturing sector in particular is experiencing unprecedented growth, with recent investments of over €3 billion from leading global companies and roughly 6,000 currently employed. Biopharmachem Ireland estimate that overall employment within biotech will reach 11,000 over the next five years.

“The potential in the sector is mind-blowing in terms of opportunities for graduates,” said O’Driscoll.

The skills seen as most desirable in employees are what you might expect: a Stem qualification, proven ability to collaborate and work in a team environment and ideally a relevant work placement.

While there is, understandably, a spotlight on encouraging students to pursue Stem-related qualifications, O’Driscoll believes the focus will expand.

“I think we’re going to see companies thinking more holistically in terms of talent,” she said.

“With a lot of work being automated in the future, some of the ‘softer’ skills will become really crucial – creativity, emotional intelligence, leadership agility and communication skills.”

Such is the demand for quality graduate recruits in the sector that Fastnet has seen a rising number of counter offers this year, with companies competing for top talent.

“One of the biggest challenges facing the industry is the skills shortage,” said O’Driscoll.

“Retention of employees is also key. There’s no doubt people will move job more often in the future and the challenge for employers is to optimise talent management outcomes via how they attract, manage, develop and engage their people.”

The desire to make a difference might be one factor affecting those entering the market, but Fastnet’s research shows that today’s graduates are also highly motivated by what a firm can offer them in terms of development and career progression.

A survey carried out by Fastnet this year revealed that 44 per cent of employees were likely to move jobs in the coming 18 months, with career acceleration and professional development ranking above financial rewards and flexibility for male and female talent considering a career move.

More than three quarters of employers (77 per cent) surveyed said that retention of skilled employees was very critical to their business, with 68 per cent of employers surveyed stating that they have become more vocal about their positive culture/employer brand and have made staff development and succession planning business-critical in the last 24 months.

Graduates are also making good use of tools such as to fully research issues like company ethos, career progression, and ultimately ‘what it’s like to work there’ before deciding to approach or join a firm.

“Graduates are in a very strong position,” said O’Driscoll. But she’s also keen to point out that even though the life sciences sector is keen to attract new talent, only the best need apply.

In terms of academic achievement, employers are generally looking for a strong 2:1 or higher in the Stem subjects. “They want candidates who are tenacious, passionate and driven,” said O’Driscoll. “The opportunities are there, but it has to be the right fit for both parties.”

In an increasingly globalised market, employers now have access to an international pool of talent.

The Fastnet 2017 survey found that, as it stands, half of employers surveyed said it was necessary for them to search internationally to secure leadership talent.

One of the most significant things O’Driscoll feels Irish graduates can do in terms of differentiating themselves in this this vast global talent pool is to align early with industry. Work placements are invaluable in terms of building connections.

“Graduates who have a relevant work placement are more marketable,” she said. “But if you go deeper than that, it’s the graduates who really maximise that opportunity, those who ask for cross-functional exposure, build relationships during the experience and perhaps even pursue a Master’s in partnership with a company, those are the candidates that really stand out.”

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