Life Sciences Future Skills 2030

As published in the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy update this month, and as a result of strong collaboration across all sectors, there has been substantial progress in making the UK a more attractive place for life sciences companies. Talented people are a vital component for this success and the life sciences sector is increasingly dependent on specialised talent to support and sustain emerging technologies. These specialist skills are needed to deliver ground-breaking treatments to patients and as UK Bioindustry grows, more job opportunities, unique skills and entrepreneurial talent will be required.

In partnership across industry and Government, BIA member companies provided incredible insight and industry evidence for the Life Sciences 2030 Skills Strategy, a key deliverable in the Life Sciences Sector Deal.  Evidence gathered showed that it’s about innovative treatments and new technologies, but also a changing society, expectations of the next generation and that the 2030 workplace may be very different.

We will need to organise our teams to be more agile and further integrate traditional skills with new transformative, digital skills. The resultant strategy tells us that the sector has potential to create 133,000 jobs over the next 10 years, with a large proportion of these in the biotech sector, and that digital skills, statistical literacy, leadership and inter-disciplinary working are essential to our continued success.

The 2030 strategy recommendations require focus to prepare for change and meet these skills demands. Developing our home-grown talent pipeline is an industry priority in order to unlock value through skills and meet the significant recruitment demand faced. Alongside domestic skills development, maintaining the UK’s world-leading position in supporting the transfer and exchange of a global workforce will ensure the UK remains an attractive place to invest and work.

The UK has a strong skills infrastructure across Higher Education and Further Education, we need to build on this to develop multi-disciplinary, industry ready graduates with a future focus on translation, commercialisation and computational skills. Technical and vocational education are undergoing considerable reform and the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy highlighted a need to increase uptake of life science apprenticeships, particularly across SMEs. The public sector and industry are working together to build strong vocational life science skills by funding more high-quality sciences apprenticeships. Key projects such as the Advanced Therapies Apprenticeship Community (ATAC) has made a significant impact in addressing the reported skills gaps in these areas.

The research base also points to a need to foster a new approach to lifelong learning and promotion of the Life Sciences sector to inspire, inform and build a diverse, entrepreneurial and resilient future workforce. Support for companies to deliver on their growth strategies through provision of supportive education programmes, a range of industry relevant training and practical packages may be required to ensure students, existing staff and those entering from other sectors have the opportunity to learn and practice complex processes which are specifically tailored to meet the needs of the sector.

The primary recommendation from the 2030 future skills strategy is to implement a Life Sciences Skills Action Plan to oversee and coordinate the delivery of the strategy’s recommendations. I look forward to engaging with BIA member companies through this partnership approach to ensure delivery of skills programmes that really address industry needs.

Dr Kate Barclay

Skills Strategy Consultant

Dr Kate Barclay is an Independent Consultant working across high impact Science and Technology industries with a passion for STEM education. As a Chartered Chemical Engineer and Fellow of the IChemE, she has spent over 20 years in the Bio-Pharmaceutical Industry as a Senior Leader in Global R&D leading technical and scientific project teams in clinical manufacture of parenteral, solid dose and inhaled dosage forms as well as developing novel device technologies. Since 2013 Kate has been instrumental in developing apprenticeships across the Science Industry, leading the Life Sciences and Industrial Sciences Trailblazer employer group in development of new apprenticeship standards. She pioneered apprenticeship implementation across the science industry and has won multiple national awards for quality of apprenticeship delivery. Kate has a passion for promoting opportunities for women in STEM, is an experienced vocational workplace assessor for apprenticeships and a Non-Executive Director of the Institute for Apprenticeships, assuring quality governance to apprenticeship and Technical Education reforms across England.