Pfizer pitches career in pharmaceuticals to students by citing huge investment in the community

Working at Pfizer means being in a place where the company is dedicated to programs reaching out to the community.

During Manufacturing Day, a recent program designed to attract young people into a career in industry, students were introduced to the economic advantages the company brings to the community and to programs that encourage youngsters to pursue courses of study that will help them succeed in manufacturing.

Manufacturing Day events take place nationwide as industries grapple with how to deal with the fact that In the next decade 37.5 Boomers will retire and it is anticipated there will be 21 million emerging workers to replace them.

Pfizer pointed to the innovation that goes into the work it does, creating drugs that save people’s lives as passionate employees made the case for a career in the pharmaceutical industry

The group of students who visited Pfizer for the day also learned of a number of outreach programs designed link the pharmaceutical company to the local schools in hopes of encouraging young people to one day consider a career in manufacturing. For students in Kalamazoo, who are eligible to go to college through the Promise scholarship program, working with Pfizer employees helps prepare them for higher education. 
Please check out our video on Pfizer here.

“We want to retain them in Kalamazoo so they can be part of the skilled labor force we need,” said Laura Martin, of Pfizer.

She went on to explain three programs that are part of this outreach effort. At the elementary level students can be part of a program—Plant a Seed—that “generates excitement and interest in science and shows how Science, Technology, and Math skills translate into a career,” Martin said.

The Choose Your Path program helps students make informed choices about careers in science. This can include internships that provide real-world experience, Martin said. A third part of the outreach efforts is Living Your Future. 

Pfizer employees work with students at Amberly Elementary in the Portage Public Schools with programs in which they strive to be inspirational. There is a group of Pfizer staff who travel to local schools with programs that make science fun. They also serve as positive role models and teach skills such as concentration. Connections with the Communities in Schools program in Kalamazoo helps fill in gaps in the science and math curriculums. 

Collaborations with Education for Employment through the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency bring about more connections to local schools. And through the recent Career Quest event, 100 percent of 8th and 9th graders—5,000 to 6,000 students—had an opportunity to learn about ways to apply engineering and math in future careers. Skill trades also were part of the program. 

The pharmaceutical company also has forged links with the Mattawan Schools and offers educational experiences to participating students. Students learn that going to college is not the only option. For some, trade school programs provide a higher value.

For college age students, Pfizer offers summer internships that real projects for the company. A recent project undertaken by an intern involved a review of 3,000 regulations and results in an annual savings of $125,000 for Pfizer. 

Visiting students learned of a need for skilled workers that had Robert Betzig, interim site leader of Kalamazoo Operations for Pfizer Global Supply, seeking out workers from states as far away as Texas to work on two construction projects at the Pfizer campus  in Portage. 

Pfizer is constructing a new Act-O-Vial Work Center where it will expand production of a product unique to Pfizer, a handheld device used by paramedics and others typically in an emergency situation  for injections of Solu-Medrol. The work center will have a new manufacturing work center, and an aseptic processing space complete with modern environmental controls integrated automation for paperless batch processing. The new center is expected to cost $106 million, be completed in 2018, and start producing its first commercial batches in 2019.

A second project, expected to be finished in November 2017 is a $41 million warehouse expansion at Building 41. The new construction on the north side of the building will include 98,000 square feet of controlled room temperature space and 12,000 pallet spaces for raw materials. Refrigerated space and six new truck docks also are planned. 

As part of the Manufacturing Day event, the group of mostly college-age students also learned of Pfizer’s role in driving the local economy. The Pfizer team shared the results of an Economic Impact Analysis conducted James Robey, director, regional planning services for the W.E. Upjohn Institute. Pfizer asked for the analysis in light of the company’s investment  in Portage—the new Act-O-Vial Work Center and the warehouse expansion for Building 41.

The analysis shows the Portage Pfizer campus “employs more than 2,200 colleagues” and it spends $189 million a year, including overtime, on wages. The study looked at the company’s economic impact in southwest Michigan including Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties, as workers commute to Pfizer from across southwest Michigan.

Pfizer’s employment of 2,202 workers leads to the creation of an estimated 5,680 jobs in both the public and private sectors, the Upjohn Institute report says. “The essence of this is that an almost 3,500 jobs in the region are due to the economic activity at Pfizer. This creates an estimated multiplier of 2.58, or roughly 1.6 jobs for each Pfizer job at the facility,” the analysis says.

The company supports 1,600 jobs of those who supply goods and services to Pfizer. Further, there are 431 retail jobs and 182 in food services generated by Pfizer and associated activities. It also supports 412 jobs in the professional scientific services, which tend to be higher paying positions. Supply chain jobs also would be created.

Sales, also known as Output, is estimated to be more than $2.2 billion in the region. The value of the labor involved comes to nearly $950 million. Altogether direct jobs at Pfizer, indirect employment (jobs that provide goods and services to the company), and jobs producing goods and services to direct and indirect workers generates nearly $420 million in wages in the two-county region.

Salaries paid varies, but the average income per worker is $57,906, more than the $51,167 median household income in the Kalamazoo market area. 

It was not that long ago that manufacturers were warning that jobs lost were never going to return. Now they are worried about not having enough people to fill their jobs. After the presentation, Betzig said manufacturers are now going directly to young people, encouraging them to consider jobs in industry, when not that long ago industry leaders were talking about jobs that would never come back. He said those kinds of statements were being made as manufacturers were trying to sort out the effect of globalization. Now that the industry is stable again the pitch can be made to students and their parents that manufacturing is a good career choice.

Kathy Jennings is the managing editor of Southwest Michigan's Second Wave. She is a freelance writer and editor.