Skills shortages in the life sciences sector

04 Dec 2017



With last week’s publication of the government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper and the announcement of a multi-million pound sector deal for the life sciences industry, the need for quality candidates for this sector will become even more acute.

How the life sciences industry can find the right talent in post-Brexit Britain was the topic of the recent REC Life Sciences sector group meeting in the Shard, kindly sponsored by SourceBreaker and chaired by Ricky Martin, chair of the REC Life Sciences group and Managing Director of Hyper Recruitment Solutions.

Speciality is key

One way recruiters can help clients find the talent they need is through specialising. This was the focus of the keynote speaker Paul Oldham, Global Talent Acquisition Director at AstraZeneca. He highlighted how competition in the field is growing and that recruiters need to be able to present a unique specialist offering to clients – being just a “life sciences recruiter” will no longer cut it. He advised recruiters to have expert in-depth knowledge of a specialism and be seen as the “place to go” for talent.

Data is needed

In order to identify where skills gaps are in the industry, robust data is needed. The REC Life Sciences sector group is seeking to support the life sciences industry in providing some of this data through our skills gap survey. We urge members to feed into this to help us build our case. Richard Acton, Vice Chair of the group and Director of SRG presented the early findings from the survey to members; and highlighted the broad range of roles life sciences recruiters supply, from chemical engineers, to production personnel, to market access roles. Of particular note from the survey was the overwhelming view (75 per cent of responses) that access to talent is the biggest concern recruiters have regarding the UK’s exit from the European Union.

Post-Brexit immigration system should be based on economic need

The REC’s immigration specialist Richard Sagar spoke about the work the REC has been doing to help inform the government’s post-Brexit immigration system. This includes engagement with over 30 MPs, peers and members of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, meeting the Prime Minister’s business advisor in No 10, and with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions David Gauke. He spoke in particular about the REC’s flagship report Building the Post-Brexit Immigration System which provides hard evidence on which sectors and regions have particularly high numbers of EU nationals working in them. It highlights how 14 per cent of those working in “natural and social science” professions are EU nationals. In the report we recommend that any future immigration system should be based on evidence and economic need.

We therefore welcomed the call for evidence from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) on EU workers in the UK labour market which will inform the Home Office’s policy in this area. The REC will be submitting evidence to the MAC and life sciences had a chance to engage directly with them at the event.

Candidate shortages continue to be a key concern for the life sciences industry and it is critical that the Industrial Strategy Sector Deals and post-Brexit immigration system work to address this. A key part of this will be getting the right data and intel from the coalface of where shortages are and this is where recruiters have a key role to play.

Try New Millennia today!

Call us on 0161 337 9882 to get started

Get In Touch