Frederick Biotech Leaders Discuss Strategies for Talent Recruitment and Retention

Maryland’s reputation as the destination state for biotech jobs and life science research continues to climb as new startups emerge across its biohealth cluster regions.

Take Frederick, Maryland, for instance. As a booming biohealth hub, Frederick serves as the home for big employers like AstraZeneca, Leidos, and over 80+ life science companies. The Frederick City and County Economic Development team plays an invaluable role in encouraging new business development and supporting growth across the region. Many Frederick-based biotech companies are heavily engaged with local organizations and educational institutes within the region. These successful symbiotic relationships have earned Frederick the reputation of being a community-focused and business-friendly biohealth ecosystem.

With thousands of current and projected open jobs within the BioHealth Capital Region (BHRC), the issue of attracting and retaining talent is an important topic of discussion. We previously reported about the challenges faced by BHCR in building a long-term sustainable workforce. To address this issue, BioBuzz and Frederick City and County Economic Development recently co-hosted a virtual event, “Attracting Talent in Frederick’s Booming Biotech Industry,” featuring a panel of Frederick biotech leaders who shared their expertise and strategies for talent recruitment and retention.

The speakers for the event included Mary Beth Leibig (Human Resource Director and HR Site Lead, AstraZeneca), Ed Radwinsky (Head of People Operations, RoosterBio, Inc.), Jeff Wells (Head of Corporate Development, VaLogic), Savita Prabhakar (Assistant Professor and Program Manager, Frederick Community College) with Chris Frew (CEO, Workforce Genetics) moderating the discussion.

To maximize organizational awareness and talent recruitment, biotech and life science companies have adopted strategies to attract a wide talent pool. Hiring managers and senior leaders at both big and small biotech companies are leveraging social media and LinkedIn to share employee testimonials, personal experiences, and workplace culture-related content. Early and mid-career job seekers have responded favorably to job postings on LinkedIn by hiring managers. It gives the former the opportunity to know more about the people they might be working with and connect with the hiring team. Another useful recruiting strategy- current employees can also serve as recruiters themselves by tapping into their networks as opportunities within their organizations arise.

Investing and engaging with the local talent pipeline is another beneficial recruitment strategy. Many Frederick-based biotech companies have developed apprenticeship and internship programs to draw young talent from the region and diverse regions across the country. The Frederick High School LYNX program has created opportunities for sophomores and juniors to get experience working in the biotech and life science space; many graduating interns go on to pursue careers in STEM or directly join the Frederick biotech workforce following graduation.

Funding from programs like the Maryland Technology Internship Program has also incentivized employers, particularly smaller companies and startups, to provide short-term experiential opportunities for local college students. In addition, through continued partnership and communication, universities and local colleges like Frederick Community College learn the changing needs of the biohealth sector. They can prepare the next generation of the workforce accordingly.

But apart from attracting top talent, what can companies do to improve employee retention? Investing in employee development has emerged as one of the key strategies. In recent years, bigger companies like AstraZeneca have invested in continuous learning opportunities for employees through online and experiential platforms. Many smaller companies (such as Rooster Bio, Inc and VaLogic) and startups (that might not have the resources to develop learning opportunities) reported that building a positive organizational culture and strengthening employee engagement have driven job satisfaction and employee engagement productivity within their organizations. 

Frederick itself serves as a brand for talent recruitment and retention. The plethora of biotech companies in Frederick offers prospective talent the flexibility of seeking new career opportunities within the region in the future. Its strong infrastructure and progressive ecosystem are major draws for young professionals and families to move here.

The city is home to a nationally recognized public school system, the state’s first charter school, and three higher education institutions (Frederick Community College, Hood College, and Mount St. Mary’s University). Moreover, the city has garnered national attention as one of the ‘Top 100 Best Places to Live’, ‘Top Cities for Recent Grads,’ and several other accolades. Its robust park system, food and beverage industry, and vibrant arts scene collectively offer an excellent quality of life to sustain long-term talent in the region.

Click Play Below to Watch “Attracting Talent in Frederick’s Booming Biotech Industry

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Nivedita Uday Hegdekar

Nivedita is a student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, pursuing a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology and an MS in law (patent law). She is passionate about science writing and communication, and is actively involved with the Maryland biotech scene through her work with Women in Bio- Capital Region , AWIS (Baltimore Chapter) and BioBuzz.