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Looking back at National Apprenticeship Week and National Careers Week (6 – 12 March), Alex Felthouse from Eisai, and MMIP Skills Chair, discusses what we need to do next to ensure the UK has the STEM skills it needs.

There is significant focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) skills right now. These are needed to support our current pharmaceutical industry and to ensure the UK remains a world-leader in innovative Life Sciences as new technologies and products change the way we work and manufacture medicines.

Identified as one of the ten ‘pillars’ in the most recent Industrial Strategy Green Paper, the Government have made clear that addressing the gaps that exist in STEM skills is a priority: their focus and recognition shows that we are moving in the right direction, but how big is the challenge we face?

Well, if you take the industry-specific demand figures from the Science Industry Partnership (SIP) Skills Strategy, and the Government’s recently published ‘Strengths and Opportunities Report’ for the Medicines Manufacturing Industry workforce, you can boil the challenge down to:

The Medicines Manufacturing Industry needs to attract 3 new people for every 100 it employs each year from now till 2025!

This is clearly quite a significant demand and something all manufacturers need to be considering to ensure our industry is able to thrive in the future.

All parts of the education system need to work and do their bit; schools and colleges need to inspire and raise the standards of STEM education, Universities need to ensure adequate balance between theory and practical skills and we, the Industry, must engage at all levels to inspire and attract students to work in our sector.

The questions I pose to employers reading this are thus; are you doing your bit; do you engage with Schools through a STEM programme such as the SIP Ambassadors; do you host work experience; do you have an apprenticeship programme; do you engage with Universities and have an Industrial Placement programme? We must promote our great industry and push the opportunities and rewarding careers that are on offer. This is a win / win situation for students and the country.

With an increasingly mobile workforce, ensuring we have the skills as an industry to thrive may only be achieved by everyone doing their bit… three in a hundred every year till 2025!

Alex Felthouse is the General Manager of Eisai Manufacturing Ltd (EML) based in Hatfield, UK. 

Alex is a Chartered Engineer and has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 24 years. He has always had a keen interest in skills development, he currently chairs the MMIP Skills Workstream and is a Board member of the Science Industry Partnership (SIP).