Looking for a job? Look to biopharma sector

More than 300 jobs could be created over next three years, says minister Iswaran

A member of the AbbVie staff at work at the Abbvie manufacturing facility in Tuas. ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

The biopharmaceutical manufacturing sector could generate more than 300 jobs over the next three years, according to Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran.

He noted yesterday that employment in the sector rose from 1,900 people in 2000 to 6,000 last year, with about 80 per cent of the jobs going to Singaporeans.

The average remuneration was around $102,000 last year, added Mr Iswaran, who was speaking at the opening of the US$320 million (S$436 million) AbbVie manufacturing facility at the Tuas Biomedical Park.

AbbVie, which makes drugs for oncology and immunology, employs 150 staff members at its Buona Vista facility. They will be complemented by 250 new positions at the 120,000 sq m Tuas plant.

It has hired 170 workers so far and is looking to take on more engineering and technical employees.

Biotechnologist Lee Teck Heng, 46, was a stockbroker for 21 years before he made a career switch two years ago. He joined AbbVie in March. ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

Mr Iswaran pointed out that the manufacturing sector offers opportunities for job seekers who want to re-skill themselves. They can join the Professional Conversion Programme run by the Workforce Development Agency for the biologics manufacturing sector. The scheme includes the Biologics Overseas Skills Training (Boost) programme.

Mr Iswaran added:"We will invest resources in developing new manufacturing technologies and capabilities that will enable companies to introduce new products, as well as new therapeutic modalities, such as cell therapy and antibody drug conjugates.

"By leveraging new technologies and capabilities, companies can also achieve increased productivity, higher asset utilisation and reduced costs."

He said the biomedical manufacturing cluster is the second-largest contributor to Singapore's manufacturing sector, accounting for close to 20 per cent.

Biotechnologist Lee Teck Heng, 46, joined AbbVie in March. He was a stockbroker with a local securities firm for 21 years before he made a career switch to the pharmaceutical industry two years ago. He retrained in biotech at Temasek Polytechnic under Boost and then undertook a year of practical training at Lonza Biologic's facility in Portsmouth in the United States.

"It was a great experience for me to learn about a new industry," he said. "I can now operate production equipment and use my previous skills in financial planning and apply them to my production scheduling duties in my new job."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2016, with the headline Looking for a job? Look to biopharma sector. Subscribe