The FDA Has a Hiring Problem: Here is A Free Solution

Yes, pay is lower in government service than in the private sector. But pay is not the be-all, end-all. As someone with management experience in the Nonprofit Sector, I was also in a similar position where I could not compete for hires on pay alone; it forces you to get creative.

A young person with a family can’t wait four months for us to get through some of the federal hiring process. So if they have something else that’s more . . . expedient, they will take that.
– Peter Marks, Director of FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research

I can’t emphasize enough how broken the federal hiring process is. Peter is not far off the mark when he said it takes four months for people to wind through the hiring process; I saw the same thing when I was going for jobs with the NPS, NARA and Smithsonian when I graduated from college. As I’ve written before, it’s not just the process itself that is too long…it’s the systems they use to help organize it. Their Applicant Tracking System and Online Portal are jokes. I can guarantee that it’s not just the wait that is making it hard for them to hire; it’s also a lack of good candidates because of the broken system applicants are forced to use and the games they have to play in order to get their application through.

But I also find it ironic that even though several people in the article mention other problems that may be contributing, the focus is on pay. Yes, pay is lower in government service than in the private sector. But pay is not the be-all, end-all. There are other ways that the FDA could go about addressing this gap and attracting the kind of talent they need.

As someone with management experience in the Nonprofit Sector, I was also in a similar position where I could not compete for hires on pay alone; it forces you to get creative. I had the ability to sweeten the deal with things like flexible scheduling and training, which I am guessing are non-starters in the bureaucratic government system that the FDA must operate in.

But here is a free idea for them: Why not start a feeder program with universities? Pick one (or several) universities with good programs where the FDA has needs, and then fund students who go into and complete the program? You pay their tuition and fees, which has two benefits: A) It eliminates the student debt burdens which drive many younger people into the private sector for the higher wages and B) It’s far cheaper than a pay raise across the board. When students successfully complete the program, they are guaranteed a position at the FDA. If they fail to complete the program or they don’t stay at the FDA for a set period of time, then the students would be obligated to pay back the funds the FDA spent for their tuition and fees while in the program. Of course there would be more involved in the creation of a program like this, but it’s a free idea you can run with.

It’s not going to solve the nightmare hiring problems, but this kind of outside-the-box thinking can at least help improve the FDA hiring pipeline and close the gap.

FDA’s Drug Approval Team Copes With 700 Unfilled Jobs As Industry Lures Staff — Kaiser Health News

The Food and Drug Administration has more than 700 job vacancies in its division that approves new drugs, and top officials say the agency is struggling to hire and retain staff because pharmaceutical companies lure them away. “They can pay them roughly twice as much as we can,” Janet Woodcock, who directs the FDA’s Center…

via FDA’s Drug Approval Team Copes With 700 Unfilled Jobs As Industry Lures Staff — Kaiser Health News

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