Talent in science: a shifting world of work – Exploring skills shortages, fierce competition, and an increasingly mobile workforce in the Pharma and Medical Devices industries

Troy, USA


As one of the largest suppliers of staff to the medical devices and pharma sectors Kelly has been at the coal face of staffing issues affecting the industry for over three decades. Over the past thirty years we have seen the sector grow in innovation, scope and profitability but in a world of change the question remains, what does our most valuable resource, our people, need, want and expect from the industry?

With these key questions in mind Kelly launched in late summer 2018 our first ever life sciences research within seven countries (France, Switzerland, UK, Ireland, Germany, Italy and The Netherlands). Almost 1,400 life sciences professionals responded.


In 2017 the EU pharmaceuticals industry had an estimated workforce of 750k (1), whilst those working within the Medical Devices sector numbered 675k (in 2016) (2).

From a human resourcing perspective, challenges and opportunities include:

  • Stiff competition for skills, exacerbated by the shift from competing within sector for talent to competing across sectors. The most notable was the increased demand for technology specialists.
  • The demand for greater workforce agility – to help reduce costs, drive innovation and product commercialisation. The challenges associated with encouraging movement of labour combined with the potential of labour augmentation through use of AI.
  • The need for real-time insights into supply, demand, reward levels and worker sentiment within the EU countries competing for the same skills.

In context of these themes, this report has examined Life Sciences workforce issues and worker sentiment in seven EU countries in which the Pharma and Medical Devices industries are concentrated. The key aims of the research were:

  • To set the EU Life Sc ...
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