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K-State aims to start global discussion on developing animal health's employees of the future

Kansas State University is hoping to develop a full roster of educational programs pertinent to the development of animal health's workforce. Animal Pharm editor Joseph Harvey spoke to Paul Casady about the university's ambitions locally and further afield.

Last year, Paul Casady was tasked with helping Kansas State University become more involved in working with animal health companies to develop new leaders.

"I personally think the industry is mature enough to have its own formal education and professional development programs," he told Animal Pharm.

"I spent 35 years in animal health. Apart from the experience I received while working on the job, we had to depend on non-specific educational and professional development programs, and internal programs targeted to the human business in the larger pharma companies. While on-the-job learning is part of any industry, there is a real need for bespoke training and professional development specific to animal health. It's time to grow up.

"As was the case for me and many of my colleagues, our careers have been shaped more by default than design – without any true animal health industry educational programs available."

Ralph Richardson, dean and chief executive of K-State's Olathe campus, has been active in the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor since its inception.

Dr Rchardson said: "While I was aware of the ongoing challenge facing animal health companies in talent acquisition and development, coming to the Olathe campus has given me the opportunity to have an impact on this issue. Recruiting top industry talent, like Paul and most recently Dr Ellen Lowry who was head of technical services at Hill's Pet Food, allows us to develop animal health offerings that provide real solutions to industry’s talent demands."

"There needs to a lot more discussion about talent and talent development. We want the leaders of the animal health industry to start a dialog."
Kansas State University's goal is to provide increased academic support for talent and workforce development for US businesses, especially leveraging its industry-oriented faculty and location to serve firms within the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor.

Mr Casady added: "We want to build an institute of animal health in the Greater Kansas City area, where we can provide academic programs and professional development seminars – complete offerings to develop current and future leaders in the industry. Our goal is to offer a full portfolio of educational programs by 2025."

In the long term, Mr Casady hopes the university's endeavors will be replicated on a global scale with partnerships being built abroad.

"Animal health is a global business and talent is a global need," he stated.

Changing times

Mr Casady said the skillset of someone working in the animal health space is now more diverse than ever with increasing product innovation in the companion animal market and growing consumer interaction. Not only are the firms differentiating their portfolios with data analytics and new technologies coming to the fore, animal heath's workforce will also have to diversify as well.

"By 2050, the global animal health industry could be worth $70bn or more," he said. "The skill levels, scale and responsibilities are going to continue to change dramatically. Keep in mind that this was a $10-12bn industry in 1980 and now it's a completely different game.

"The adjacencies are becoming more apparent with antibiotic reduction, growing nutritional products and pet food. The traditional animal health businesses are being built up with these adjacencies."

Mr Casady said companies will have to begin widening their scopes of employment to attract the best talent in the adjacent areas.

He noted: "There needs to a lot more discussion about talent and talent development. We want to be part of those discussions and we want the leaders of the animal health industry to start a dialog."

Recently, Animal Pharm spoke to Clint Lewis – executive vice president and president of international operations at Zoetis – about animal health's expanding ocean of crossover sectors.

Four pillars of work

Mr Casady said K-State will concentrate on developing four pillars of the university's curriculum.

Firstly, the university looks to approach the biggest area of demand in the animal health industry – regulatory affairs. By 2019, K-State hopes to offer a master's degree for veterinary medicine regulatory affairs. The following year, it aims to introduce an undergraduate program for regulatory affairs. Both will be the first of their kind in the US.

The second area of focus will be veterinary professional services, where technical veterinarians can learn how to support sales and marketing teams. While technical skills are a baseline requirement, employees who possess a full repertoire of executive skills are the most sought after for leadership positions. To be responsive to this need, courses will hone the business and interpersonal skills of veterinarians.

The third part of Mr Casady's remit is his own personal specialist arena – business skills/professional development. K-State is developing undergraduate and graduate courses that focus on the business of animal health for a master's in agribusiness by 2019, which will be building on an existing program at the university.

Lastly, veterinary vaccinology education and professional development will be an unmet need tackled by K-State's work. Mr Casady said most experience in vaccinology is solely gained on the job. Offerings will address production facility design, construction, management and technology. This is a clear space for development with several companies’ biological facilities nearby, and the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF), being built next to the K-State campus in Manhattan, Kansas.

These unique educational and professional development programs will target both the entry-level individual and also the continued talent development of existing professionals through undergraduate and graduate programs as well as through seminars and certificate programs. These in-demand offerings will help support continued growth of animal health companies that employ more than 21,000 people in the US alone and are growing at an estimated 5% annually.

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