Medical Technology Industry Workforce and Skills Review

The Medical Technology (MedTech) industry makes a significant social and economic contribution in Australia, improving healthcare outcomes and generating innovation and growth. There are over 500 MedTech companies in Australia, with a combined annual turnover of more than $10 billion and employing more than 19,000 workers in total.

MedTech is a growing industry in Australia, and thereare a number of broader trends that will drive future growth across the sector. The ageing Australian population and the earlier onset of chronic disease due to lifestyle choices are expected to increase domestic demand for healthcare in the future. In addition, as the large populations in countries across the Asia-Pacific region become wealthier, older and demand more healthcare, export opportunities for Australian MedTech companies are expected to increase. At the same time, rapid and disruptive technological advancements are driving changes to existing MedTech products, systems and delivery of care. These changes are also facilitating increased innovation and new product development in both existing and new non-traditional health industries.

The nature of the MedTech industry means that the workforce is required to be highly skilled, educated and flexible. Using a three-pronged approach including an industry survey, one-on-one consultations and workshops across Australia, this study found that there is a gap between the levels of current employment and desired employment in the industry. The overall skills gap is around 3% of current employment, approximately representing an additional 660 workers on top of a workforce of more than 19,000 employees. While this is not particularly large, the impact across the MedTech industry is significant – 84% believe that skills gaps have adversely impacted their organisation, with 40% reporting that the impact has become more negative over the past five years.

A key reason for the large share of companies reporting these adverse effects is that the relatively modest industry-wide skills gap masks larger gaps within a number of business areas that are critical in the MedTech industry. In particular: 

  • There is a 29% skills gap in the product development area and a 15% skills gap in theproduct research area, which approximately represents an additional 170 workers on top of the 770 estimated to be working in these areas. Companies highlighted difficulties in finding high quality workers to fill open positions in R&D, with concerns about attracting ‘top talent’ or people with experience in medical devices. It was noted that engineering graduates looking to work in R&D tended to be technically capable, but lacking in business skills.
  • There is a 16% skills gap in the regulatory affairs area, which approximately represents an additional 40 workers on top of the 230 estimated to be working in this area. Companies reported that there is no single professional talent pool for regulatory affairs and it can be especially difficult to source workers within Australia who have experience in overseas regulations. Small businesses in particular can find this area challenging due to the costs associated with hiring, training and retaining workers with regulatory skills.
  • There is a 2% skills gap in the Australian sales and marketing area. While this is consistent with the industry-wide gap, the large number of workers employed in this area means that it is a significant contributor to the overall skills gap in MedTech, as it approximately equates to an additional 110 workers on top of the 5,300 estimated to be working in this area. Sourcing people with communication and commercial skills as well as technical understanding of products is reportedly very difficult. Unlike in the past, sales and marketing personnel now require business acumen and a real understanding of the commercial environment and the challenges faced by customers (such as hospitals, governments, clinicians and private health facilities), in addition to and beyond the traditional clinical needs.