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BIA Regional Event, Oxford - Summary

Updated: Jun 13, 2022

The BIA regional event in Oxford on Thursday featured A panel discussion on increasing demand for the right skills and talent across innovative life sciences. Keynote speakers Julie Copperthwaite, Sarah Haywood, Soreya Senior, Michalis Papadakis and Harrison Steel discussed the current challenges around data/computer sciences, advanced therapies, and current models of talent development.

A day filled with interesting insights and an abundance of knowledge highlighted some key takeaways which may begin to shift the way we look at talent and development within the Life Sciences Industry; as well as sparking some interesting conversations among our consultants about the best way to meet the increasingly growing demand for talent.

Oxford Biomedica spoke about ATAC (Advanced Therapies Apprenticeship Community) as a way of bridging the existing skill gap in the market whilst also retaining young & exciting talent within the industry. An apprenticeship would allow individuals to experience a combination of work and study by amalgamating on-the-job training with formal learning. This would allow these individuals to improve their career prospects, be that at the start of their career, or even expanding their skills and experience within the workplace. The idea of apprenticeships is nothing new or ground-breaking but the lack of existing apprenticeships within Life Sciences highlights the lack of usage and understanding of the benefits apprenticeships bring to the table. For employers’ apprenticeships offer a plethora of benefits including overcoming skills shortages and attracting new talent.

Apprenticeships and Internships allow for under-qualified but interested individuals to learn about the industry, the culture, the ethos and the workload by shadowing experienced roles and learning on the go. This can be anything from summer internships, placement opportunities to sponsored apprenticeships; the options for employers to reach new, untapped talent is abundant. This exposes them to the trials and tribulations of the industry and the challenges they will face on the job, preparing them for the skills gap which has been all too evident in graduates from recent years.

Statistics show that 85% of job positions are filled through networking (Pengue, 2021) yet, recent graduating classes have proven that this generation seems to believe networking is a waste of time. Covid-19 may have been a global health pandemic but it’s repercussions have caused a graduate social pandemic and this has a trickle down effect on the rest of the job market. All too often in this generation we see overqualified individuals settling for ‘the safe option’ and jobs outside the remit of their skillset. A new industry is too scary and networking isn’t cool. The amount of Masters students has nearly doubled in the last 20 years (Statista, 2020) & frankly can you blame them? Undergraduates are faced with the option of leaving university and having to find a job with no idea what their industry entails after a global pandemic where they isolated for two years or stick to university and ride out a masters or a PhD.

Apprenticeships and internships allow for these candidates to experience the industry, understand the what’s required of them and explore what their career could be. This not only benefits the candidates but also allows Employers to reach talent they may have not been able to reach before, along with showing off their culture. Apprenticeship retention in the UK is at 64% (Camden, 2021), this means nearly 2 out 3 apprentices choose to stay with the company they intern with. Can you think of a better situation as an employer than having a ‘trial run’ with potential future hires where they learn all the skills, bridge the skill gap, embrace the culture and allow you to choose to hire them afterwards?

Enara argued that the solution to the challenges of talent attraction and development lies in culture. Without a good culture you won’t be able to attract talent in this candidate driven market, the best talent will always go where they feel fits them best. Consequently, this means they are judging you as much as you are them, when they look at your Website, your LinkedIn, your Instagram (Yes, even Instagram), they’re judging you. Apprenticeships may be a good way of helping build your culture and show these candidates what working for you really means. However, if you can’t show candidates a definable culture, transparent progression goals and a career pathway you may be exasperating the problem of your talent shortage as the best talent will go elsewhere leaving you with an even bigger skill gap you need to close. Enara do a very good job of showing their culture, principles and ethos, helping their employees ASPIRE so they can be taken as a so called ‘case study’ for you to use on how to show your company culture to attract talent.

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