Cogent Skills works across the science sector, representing Life Sciences (pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical technology and consumer healthcare), the Industrial Sciences (chemicals, downstream, industrial bio-technology, polymers, advanced materials and formulations) and Nuclear.
The science-based sector comprises some of the UK’s most strategically important, value-adding and innovative employers in the UK. It provides for our energy and our healthcare needs as well as the raw materials for supply chains across every single area of industry. Within this highly skills-intensive footprint there are around 585,000 employees contributing in excess of £25bn in GVA to the UK economy. The sector’s productivity, at around £66,000 GVA per employee, represents a high-value contribution, particularly when benchmarked against the UK employee average of around £23,000.
These industries are developing technologies that improve lives and underpin the sustainability of the UK. All have molecular transformation at their core and are dependent on a continued flow STEM skills.
The industries have an ageing workforce: in the process manufacturing sector just under forty per cent of the existing workforce is over 45 years old, which requires a high replacement demand over the next five to ten years. This is compounded by cross-industry shortages of skilled technicians and the fact that the industry is reliant on STEM skills-sets, which have been in decline in recent years.
The manufacturing processes of these science-based industries are also both safety critical, and carbon/energy intensive and hence are heavily regulated from both a safety and environmental perspective.
Structural and technological developments have changed the way we do business. In the science industries, particularly life sciences, there has been a move from single corporate entities to collaborative ventures with smaller companies and the increased outsourcing of research and development to a growing supply chain.
There is now a premium on the mobility and transportability of skills, as well as on innovation. Evidence for this comes from employers. There is disquiet over the quality of recruits (at all levels), their lack of commercial work experience, the time it takes to make them work-ready, the lack of vocational pathways and equivalencies, the ability of employers to influence course content and provider complacency.
This is supported by employer surveys which consistently show that over a quarter of our sector vacancies remain hard to fill (UKCES Employer Skills Survey). This is well above the national average and includes some of the sector’s key strategic sectors (for example in medical technology: 54% of vacancies are hard to fill).
The Science Industry Partnership has an ambition to meet this challenge. This is because life sciences technologies and skills have the same scientific core as the wider biological and chemically based industrial sciences. This includes biotechnology, medical technology, consumer healthcare, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. More importantly, developments in life science research and applications have accelerated since the decoding of the human genome. It is widely recognised that the spread of these new fundamental principles and techniques into the economy has hardly begun.
This sector breakdown is as follows:
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