With an ageing workforce and the looming unknowns of Brexit, it is now even more essential than ever that we focus on the skills required to meet the ambitious targets for growth of the biotechnology industry across the UK. The IB landscape is highly diverse and realising this growth will require a workforce with an equally diverse and high level of technical and soft skills.

This need for increased focus on skills was reflected in the recently launched UK Government Industry Strategy White Paper which highlighted Britain’s poor skills record and the need to increase the level of workplace skills. At a Scottish level, the Scottish Government’s 2017 enterprise and skills review also placed a strong emphasis on the need for skills agencies to work together in order to improve Scotland’s economic productivity and growth. Interestingly, the 2010 Scottish Life Science’s Skills Survey concluded that the main issue in Scotland is in relation to skills gaps rather than skills shortages.

The first part of the Skills track session will focus on skills policy and strategy and aims to provide the audience with an overview of what is currently being developed at across the UK and why skills development is so important. This will include information on the up and coming new life and chemical sciences Skills investment Plan (SIP). Skills Development Scotland (SDS) has worked closely with industry to develop this document and will continue to work with industry and public sector partners in its implementation. The SIP will be of particular interest to employers as the developed action plan will be one of the main drivers for skills development programmes going forward.
Although skills are once again being discussed at a senior level, the issues faced are not new and there has been some encouraging progress at an operational level. The focus of the second part of this session will be to highlight some of the good work currently underway to address these issues.

At the centre of the Scottish Government’s strategy for skills and education is the objective of equitable access for all regardless of gender, ethnicity, geographic location, or other factors that might disadvantage individuals in their access to the education system.  For our final session, we will be focusing on one of these aspects – how to develop skills for to promote women in IB.

It is hoped that the inclusion of this Skills session will raise awareness of the importance of skills and stimulate some interesting discussion and debate within the wider IB community. As the Skills Programme Manager at IBioIC, I am passionate about getting the right training to the right people and feel that industry buy-in is essential. It is really encouraging that skills are now coming under the spotlight across government bodies; however, it is now time to put these high level statements into action, and quickly, in order take full advantage of the potential for growth in IB.

Rachel Moir, IBioIC Skills Programme Manager