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Opinion | Key to tackling future crises is to have a workforce ready for careers in science, technology, engineering and math

The COVID pandemic has taught us that the best technique to managing a disaster is planning properly prematurely of an issue arriving at our doorstep. Life-sciences innovation, analysis, growth and manufacturing investments are useful, however, with out the precise individuals, Canada continues to maneuver at a glacial tempo to prepare for the following pandemic. We’re risking our future just because we’re not taking a long-term outlook in the direction of our expertise pipeline.

For too lengthy, lots of our younger college students have been at a drawback in terms of high quality, hands-on studying in science, know-how, engineering and arithmetic (STEM). Regardless of its significance to future innovation in our nation, greater than half of our college students nonetheless graduate from highschool with out a senior degree math and/or science credit score, according to Let’s Talk Science.

The chance gaps that exist in our society for younger college students are staggering regardless of our data that range is crucial to our future success. College students in lower-income areas merely don’t have entry to sufficient alternatives for hands-on STEM studying and mentorship. Intersections of socio-economic standing, location, race, ethnicity and language additionally exacerbate the underrepresentation problem. Briefly, marginalized communities, together with Indigenous and other people of color, have much less alternative and entry to taking part in STEM studying and pursuing associated profession paths.

The pandemic has solely made the problem worse, with the shift to digital studying worsening challenges for all college students, together with those that have entry to sources and help. As a scientist and dealing mom supporting three youngsters via distant studying over the past yr, I can attest to those challenges. Mother and father and educators alike are involved our kids are falling behind.

The pandemic has additionally led many ladies, together with in STEM fields, to go away the workforce at accelerated charges. Nearly six per cent of women in the Canadian workforce left their jobs throughout the first two months of COVID-19 being declared a worldwide pandemic. That development is eroding a lot of the progress we’ve made up to now and is taking essential mentors and position fashions out of our pipeline. And, it’s not simply ladies we’re shedding. Biotechnology and life-sciences employers have reported skills shortages, and 20 per cent have job vacancies in their companies.

We’d like a strong, long-term and resilient life-sciences technique to foster expertise early and hold our greatest and brightest thinkers from leaving for different markets. To do that, we’d like a predictable and supportive regulatory and coverage surroundings so Canada can compete on the worldwide stage, retain expertise, and stay a beautiful place to take a position for life-sciences corporations. This motion will make a world of distinction, not solely to our communities, however to the sustainability of our life-sciences ecosystem and total well being care of Canadians.

The worth to Canada’s financial system can’t be missed. Analysis and growth within the pharmaceutical sector alone already contribute $15 billion and 100,000 full-time jobs to Canada’s financial system. Think about what we may do if we had much more Canadians getting into STEM fields, pursuing their careers and goals proper right here in Canada.

Non-profit organizations, governments and the non-public sector are taking steps to assist bridge these gaps. Sanofi Canada’s new Biogenius Grant Program, for instance, helps to supply higher entry to hands-on STEM studying for Canadian public excessive faculties in rural and numerous populations by funding studying and outfitting faculties in want with up-to-date tools. Within the non-public sector, corporations like Greatest Purchase Canada and Samsung Canada are coming collectively to supply related grants and custom-curated know-how packages to reinforce STEM packages inside our nation’s elementary faculties.

Whereas it’s key to spend money on home biomanufacturing capabilities just like the $925-million shared investment with Sanofi Canada in a brand new, state-of-the-art vaccine manufacturing facility in Toronto, there may be extra work to do to verify we’ve the precise individuals to guide the crucial initiatives and groundbreaking improvements we’ve forward of us.

Now’s the time for our trade and governments to face up and make significant investments in STEM fairness and schooling. What we do now will influence the way forward for innovation and well being care, and help a various, inclusive and affluent workforce for the following technology. In any case, our actions now, and our funding in our biggest asset, our individuals, will make the distinction in having Canada efficiently navigate the following huge disaster.

Marissa Poole is nation lead at pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Canada, and basic supervisor, Sanofi Genzyme.



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