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Published: 6th June 2023

Medical innovator LifeArc leading the way in developing future life science talent

LifeArc is an innovative medical research charity which aims to create life-changing advances in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease. Its ground-breaking work currently includes developing new drugs to tackle conditions including cancer, dementia and cystic fibrosis.

The challenge

LifeArc joined the Science Industry Partnership (SIP) in 2022 and is a member of the SIP Board. As a leading medical innovator it is actively helping drive the skills strategy for the life science sector in collaboration with peers at a strategic level, and feeding into communications with government to help meet skills challenges for the good of the industry.

Until joining SIP, its recruitment had largely focussed on post-graduates and it had not previously offered apprenticeships – but the company’s leadership was keen to attract talent from a wider pool of candidates.

The solution

Cogent Skills supported LifeArc when the company joined SIP and designed a ‘back to basics’ workshop to provide fundamental knowledge around apprenticeships. This included an introduction to apprenticeships, the history of apprenticeships and their current design, how apprenticeships are funded, and a guide to the apprentice journey.

This led to a more specific project to help the company select the right apprenticeship programme and standard to support its plans to recruit degree apprentices to its research and development function.

This project enhanced the company’s understanding of the key standards available through various providers and included a more in-depth sessions on providers which offered their chosen programme. Cogent Skills also facilitated an event at which LifeArc selected providers.

The impact

Cogent Skills helped LifeArc advertise the apprenticeships and from more than 200 applicants, 6 attended the assessment centre.

Following this, LifeArc has selected its first ever apprentices – Rebecca Wheeler-Henry and Hanif Chowdhury – who will join the company on 4 September 2023. They will split their time 80/20 between working on-site with LifeArc and studying with Manchester Metropolitan and will work towards a Level 6 Laboratory Scientist Degree Apprenticeship.

The process of applying for an apprenticeship at LifeArc was seamless and smooth. The virtual interview questions allowed me to say enough about myself but were also easy to answer and not too nerve-wracking. The in-person assessment centre was an incredible experience in the build-up, the company was so helpful. Everyone was passionate about what they do, and this passion is infectious! I’m excited to start my future here and learn from some amazing individuals. I have high hopes that the role will teach me a lot of things, and I will walk out of it a fine scientist!

Hanif Chowdhury

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work at LifeArc while undertaking this degree apprenticeship. It allows me to pursue everything I’ve wished for in a company that truly cares and I cannot wait to begin in September!

Rebecca Wheeler-Henry

LifeArc was fully engaged with recruiting apprentices into the company’s research and development function and was great to work with. Staff were able to select the best provider for their needs and worked really hard throughout the process to ensure they partnered with a provider which was aligned to their values. What’s more, they were focused throughout on the type of learners they wanted to recruit to help drive greater social mobility in the sector.

Strategic Apprentice Lead at Cogent Skills, Rachel Roby

These new apprenticeships form part of LifeArc’s wider early career offer, which also includes a virtual work experience programme for biological sciences, which will help students who haven’t had access to more established forms of work experience in the sector and has already reached more than 1,500 students from around the world.

LifeArc has also introduced strengths-based assessment and video interviews into its early careers recruitment process – to predict job performance and help increase diversity of its talent – and contextualised recruitment data technology, which helps the company meet its social mobility goals within its ED&I strategy.

Future Ready

Cogent Skills is sector based, working with companies from across the Science and Technology Industries embracing Life Sciences, Industrial Sciences and Nuclear.
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