Our skilled science and technology employees drive the UK’s innovation and competitiveness. They discover, develop and commercialise our products. They launch new treatments, technologies, companies and even propagate new industries.
However, we cannot take their availability and talent for granted.
The Science Industry Partnership (SIP) has now published its first SIP Skills Strategy, based on a major research exercise into the skills required through to 2025 in order to ensure a globally competitive science industry sector – which includes the chemicals, pharmaceuticals, bio-technology and medical technology industries.
The Strategy is clear: the industry cannot guarantee future science talent on its own. The report calls for collaboration between Government, industry and education providers to deliver the skilled workforce we need.
The Strategy will also help us build on the significant achievements of the SIP so far – which include delivery of over 6000 individual learners into the science sector in a two year period.
The SIP Skills Strategy is a significant piece of work, over a year in the making, and forecasts the sector’s demand for skilled people out to 2025 – a projection of between 180,000 – 260,000 new scientific staff, many in new technology-based occupations. This forecast includes:
- up to 142,000 professional level graduate-entry jobs
- up to 73,000 technical level apprenticeship-entry roles
The Government has also made its support clear – George Freeman MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Life Sciences at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department of Health has welcomed the report and emphasised, “we are committed to maximising the potential of British scientific talent so that we can drive economic growth through innovation and give more young people the chance to work in this exciting industry.”
We know that these key strategic industries change our world for the better in innumerable ways, but there remains a significant and ongoing need to recruit, train and develop employees at both technical and managerial levels as the demand for innovation and higher-level skills intensifies.
This important research gives us priority areas which we can target with action and solutions and the report sets out a number of strategic objectives, linked to key recommendations. These call for much more collaboration between industry and education – something which takes effort and time; a focus on quality of science training provision, building awareness of STEM careers and many more undergraduate work experience opportunities.
A key recommendation is also to make it easier for SMEs to access CPD and training. Skills development is not just for big companies with training departments and big budgets. It is critical to the innovation pipeline, particularly in areas such as commercialisation and Intellectual Property – and our suggestions include offering apprenticeship sharing schemes and financial incentives.
Priority attention is also required on “red list” occupations from informatics specialists to the technician workforce and on the continued monitoring of emerging skills needs.
These recommendations are now being taken forward into an ambitious SIP Plan linked to the SIP’s operational targets, which include an ambition for 20,000 apprentices over the next 5 years as well as 300 industry placements per annum.
Innovation and progress – from medicines to microscopes, and everything in between – has come from the brightest scientific minds. The impact of our sector on our national competitiveness, economic growth and quality of life cannot be overstated. Our report shows that this growing science industry workforce is central to our prosperity and well-being and these jobs are the jobs of our future.
We look forward to taking forward this report and to working with all our partners in Government, education and industry to take the necessary actions to bring new talent in to the sector and to maximise the potential of those already working in it.
To find out more about the SIP Skills Strategy, visit the website.