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Where Have All the CRAs Gone?

Posted on: 31 Jul 05


As the demand for qualified Clinical Research Associates (CRAs) continues to grow, “Where have all the CRAs gone?” is a question that is being heard more and more around water coolers and in meetings throughout pharmaceutical industry facilities worldwide.
As the demand for qualified Clinical Research Associates (CRAs) continues to grow, “Where have all the CRAs gone?” is a question that is being heard more and more around water coolers and in meetings throughout pharmaceutical industry facilities worldwide. It’s becoming increasingly clear that one of the greatest challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry is attracting and retaining quality staff. As an international business, i3 Pharma Resourcing has identified this phenomenon as not just unique to one or two geographical regions, but as a pervasive problem the industry faces worldwide. And it’s a problem that won’t simply go away on its own: it requires us to take action. A report published in September by the UK-based Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) suggests that a shortage of skilled staff is not unique to our industry. In fact, the evidence shows that across all industries, “there has been an increase in the demand for staff creating a growing skills shortage.” Indeed, unemployment in the UK, based on the ILO definition from the Labour Force Survey, showed a rate of 4.7 percent for the three-month period, June to August 2004. By September 2004, the claimant count measure of unemployment fell to a rate of 2.7 percent. The report continues: “The overall availability of candidates to fill vacant positions at employers was substantially lower than in the previous month in August. Candidate availability has now been in decline for ten months, with the rate of deterioration accelerating slightly during the latest survey period as skill shortages grew more apparent. Strong demand for staff and shortages of suitably skilled candidates continued to exert inflationary pressure on pay rates in August.” “In order to attract the right candidates,” the report concludes, “employers are offering substantially higher pay rates and this emphasizes the importance of retaining existing talent.”1 We have no indication that the pharmaceutical industry is an exception to this trend; indeed, our own observations concur with the conclusions drawn by the REC report. If, in fact, steps are not taken now to attract, train, and retain staff—particularly in clinical research—the problem will get worse as the demand for clinical research trials accelerates. Organizations within the combined clinical research, biotech, and pharmaceutical industry carry collective responsibility for fueling the continued appetite for experienced clinical researchers, at a rate that may well outweigh new entrants into the industry. All players in the industry continually seek candidates with at least two years experience, adding to the pressure already faced by recruiting managers. This is compounded by a mix of factors that includes entrants’ demands for rapid career development, a decrease in R&D timelines, and a need to bring products to market earlier. In light of the challenges presently facing our industry, CRO, pharma, biotech, and medical device companies need to work together to proactively manage the existing shortfall. At a recent forum hosted by i3 Pharma Resourcing UK, key clinical research managers and resource decision makers highlighted four areas of focus that offer the greatest potential for understanding and addressing the current shortages in the industry: 1 The role of the CRA The CRA role has changed over the last few years in response to ongoing regulatory changes. Today’s CRA is more involved with administrative tasks than ever before, limiting the amount of time they can spend with investigators or concentrating on the scientific aspects of their role. Identifying the key elements of the role, defining more appropriate functions, and maximizing time utilization are essential steps to take in response to these new realities. 2 The type of person in the CRA position Once again, with the CRA role changing, we need to challenge the level of education required to fulfill the role. For instance, is it really essential to employ Ph.D.-qualified monitors on every project, without exception? What, if any, compromises could be made? 3 Expectations for the role Because of the high percentage of female employees in clinical research, as well as other factors, we need to look at providing greater flexibility for employees. Options such as field-based vs. office-based roles and full-time vs. part-time schedules are worthy of serious consideration. 4 Training program for new entrants The amount of time and money being spent on training new entrants is currently quite limited. Increasing these resources is almost certainly overdue and could be seen as a cost of doing business. One of the key messages to come out of this forum was the need for greater partnership and risk sharing between the pharmaceutical industry and its suppliers in the training and development of clinical researchers and project managers at all levels. While there is no single solution to this complex and long-term issue, it is widely agreed that ample investment and training is fundamental to the development of the next generation of clinical researchers. In the real world of clinical research, however, the budgets and time to train and mentor new entrants are scarce, and not enough companies have the necessary resources or skills to make this investment. Within the UK, i3 Pharma Resourcing is running a training program for new graduates and, importantly, for those wishing to return to the industry. Information about this program, which represents an exciting step toward closing the gap between supply and demand for CRAs, is now available for existing and potential clients. We will also be developing similar programs for the European and Australian markets based on input from customers and other stakeholders in those areas in order to adequately address all local issues. To learn more about how we can help you take action to address the CRA shortfall—including information on such details as how this new kind of training program would be conducted, how candidates are recruited, what cost and time commitments are required by clients, and how to participate in one of our industry forums, contact Iain Jessup ( 1- REC/Deloitte, Report on Jobs, 6th September 2004 report Go to i3 Pharma Resourcing Current Jobs

i3 Pharma

Last updated on: 27/08/2010 11:40:18

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