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Biopharma skills gap report shows promising results

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

Words by GOLD newsdesk

Skills shortages across the biopharmaceutical industry are decreasing from levels assessed in 2018, but there are areas that still require attention, according to a new report published by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).

Informed by interviews and surveys with pharmaceutical companies, the ‘Bridging the skills gap in the biopharmaceutical industry’ report found the overall STEM skills gaps in the industry to be narrowing, with improvements in disciplines such as immunology, genomics, clinical pharmacology, automation and others. Gaps in core skills such as scientific knowledge, communication and problem solving have also improved, but further progress is needed.

In addition, the report identifies seven top priority disciplines needing particular focus and improvement: chemometrics, formulation science, physiological modelling, computational chemistry and chemoinformatics, pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamics modelling, epidemiology and pharmacoepidemiology, and engineering in manufacturing.

The fact that these areas largely require strong digital skills is of particular note as it highlights the increasing need for knowledge of digital and data within life sciences, R&D and manufacturing to support new types of research and innovation.

Alongside these findings, the ABPI has set out four key commitments for improving skills within the sector:

  • Support universities and raise awareness of the pharma sector as an attractive employer to boost digital skills

  • Launch an updated, dedicated platform of free, high quality, up-to-date STEM resources supporting all key stages for UK curricula to support long-term attainment and drive achievement

  • Conduct further research into recruitment and retention of experienced staff and why this is proving a challenge for the sector

  • Continue to address industry identified areas for action for securing a sustainable skills pipeline, as part of the Futures Group formed as part of Sector Deal 2.

“Having the right system in place to teach and upskill passionate individuals to pursue science careers is vital if we are to be ready for the next [pandemic],” said Andrew Croydon, Skills and Education Policy Director, ABPI. “Our report shows that policies to narrow skills gaps are working, but that the skills of the future in digital and computing are emerging as an area of concern.

“We’re making industry commitments... to address that trend and have put forward recommendations for the government to match – so that we can make the UK the best place in the world to research, develop and use new medicines.”

Responding to the report, Alex Burghart, Minister for Skills, Department for Education, commented: “We want to help people step into digital jobs and plug the skills gaps in our economy. That’s why we are investing millions to fund digital Skills Bootcamps, rolling out new T Levels in digital and boosting apprenticeship opportunities.”

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