Securing the Advanced Therapies talent pipeline through apprenticeships

By Annette England, Bioprocessing Consultant, BIA.

Early March saw the launch of National Apprenticeship Week (#NAW18), the 11th annual celebration of apprenticeship schemes and the benefits they bring to individuals, businesses, and the country as a whole. The Advanced Therapies (AT) sector marked the occasion with an AT Manufacturing Apprenticeship event at GSK Stevenage, to recognise the value of apprenticeships for securing the talent pipeline in the UK, allowing the sector to reach its full potential. 

Prospective and current employers joined apprentices, training providers, funders and accrediting bodies at the event to explore the benefits of apprenticeships within AT Manufacturing, where information was provided on the latest developments in delivery from the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) and suitable apprenticeship programmes identified within the sector. The audience heard training providers’ perspectives on how these programmes can be delivered in the workplace, and from employers who currently employ apprentice.

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly when the inspirational apprentices shared their experiences and reasons for going down this more practical route of learning, both through individual case studies and a Q&A panel. An interactive networking area enabled delegates to meet apprentices and employers across the sector, in addition to receiving top tips and signposting information on starting their own apprenticeship scheme from the experts.


The event was the finale to a piece of Gatsby funded work that came out of the Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership (MMIP) Advanced Therapies Manufacturing Taskforce. The Taskforce recommended the creation and implementation of an end-to-end talent plan for the sector as part of an Action Plan to set the conditions for productivity and commercial scale industrialisation to anchor AT manufacturing in the UK.

The plan encompasses integrated strategies to develop the talent pool at multiple entry-points, ranging from manufacturing technicians through to post-doctoral and professional levels. This would ensure a sustainable supply of knowledge and skills necessary to fuel the growth of the nascent Advanced Therapies sector, and anchor manufacturing and associated supply chain of AT products in the UK for the benefit of both patients and the economy. The Gatsby Foundation, with its interest in technical training, funded Tony Bradshaw of Bradshaw TM and a small team including Kate Barclay, Laura Unitt and Netty England to focus on the apprenticeship component and investigate how to create a technician workforce with the specialised skills necessary to serve the emerging AT industry.

Two existing apprenticeship standards are being adapted to include practical and theoretical modules on AT manufacturing, Science Manufacturing Technician (Level 3) and Technician Scientist (Level 5). Recruitment for these apprentices is underway, with the Level 5 standard scheduled to begin in September. If you would like to hear more, please contact Netty England or Tony Bradshaw.

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