16/01/2008 - 22:00

Skills shortage bites

16/01/2008 - 22:00

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Finding the right people to manage Western Australia’s technology companies is like finding a needle in a haystack, according to Titan Bioventures managing director and Phylogica non-executive director Harry Karelis.

Skills shortage bites

Finding the right people to manage Western Australia’s technology companies is like finding a needle in a haystack, according to Titan Bioventures managing director and Phylogica non-executive director Harry Karelis

For Phylogica, a Perth-based biopharmaceutical company, finding a chief executive with specific expertise to take it to the next phase in its evolution has been fraught with challenges

The company is currently applying its proprietary technologies for the development of drugs for the treatment of inflammatory diseases including asthma, stroke and diabetes

Current chief executive Stewart Washer, a key figure in the company’s early development, has indicated his desire to move on

Mr Karelis said there were probably only 100 chief executives in the world who could take on the role, and none of them were based in Australia

“They’re in places like Cambridge, San Diego, Boston, so how do you convince someone there to become a CEO of an Australian listed company, albeit in a very hot area, with an exit timetable of two years?” “It’s that bridge too far for people to consider.” Orbital Corporation managing director Rod Houston said finding engineers in WA was a particular problem for the company

“I think the mining guys have tapped into all the mining engineers and now they’re willing to take anybody that can walk

So it is difficult for us,” he said

“What we do is tap into people from the UK, China, India and attract them to Perth with all the lifestyle and family benefits that go with it

Of course, we check that they don’t have mining degrees first.” Sensear chief executive Justin Miller said there was a skills crisis in WA and a shortage of people willing to take a risk on technology ventures

“I’m taking a risk,and I’m out there saying there will be an exit for me at some point and that’s when I make my money

I think people should be proud to get out there and say that.” “We’re building for that point and more people should be prepared to do that.” “Once people understand that that big return is possible, then you’ll see more people maybe gravitate towards that lifestyle in WA.” “It can happen, and it does work, and there are a lot of people in this town who have already proved that.”

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