UK advanced therapy sector employment in line to double by 2024

The UK aims to grow its cell and gene therapy workforce with both a training network and by recruiting from outside the sector.

According to Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (CGTC)’s research, 83% of companies operating in the advanced therapy sector stated that a lack of skilled employees will be one of the main issues that slows down or causes a delay to their forecasted expansions.

CGTC projects that the workforce in the industry will need to double from approximately 3,000 in 2019 to 6,000 in 2024. This follows on from a rapid expansion that saw only 500 roles exist in the sector in 2012.

Image: iStock/Ivan-balvan

As part of its efforts to ensure the UK industry can continue to expand at this pace, the CGTC announced earlier this month that it had launched the Advanced Therapies Skills Training Network (ATSTN), supported by a £4.7 million (€5.18 million) grant from the UK government.

The network is comprised of three different parts: an online training platform, national training centers and a career converter platform.

Each part was designed in collaboration with industry to train current professionals, but also to recruit individuals from outside of the advanced therapy industry.

On this latter effort, a spokesperson from CGTC explained that the industry “can benefit from a variety of transferrable skills such as technical skills, business behaviors, project management and digital knowledge which are spread across a number of different sectors.”

As a result, the career converter tool allows users to measure their transferable skillset against roles within the advanced therapies and vaccine manufacturing sector.

In terms of what other sectors would be targeted, the spokesperson noted that there are opportunities for those working in ‘similar industries’, though these could be as broad as finance, construction, IT and agriculture.

Recruiting during a pandemic

In regard to how the pandemic would impact on recruitment, the spokesperson stated that CGTC remained confident that targets towards 2024 would be met.

In support of this is the fact that the industry has managed to increase the number of skilled staff necessary to manufacturing, test and release products by 15% this year.

Such level of recruitment has been necessary this year, as the spokesperson stated that the UK cell and gene industry has been able to report a 48% increase in manufacturing compared to last year, following broader trends across the industry for higher demand.

Furthermore, the spokesperson stated that the pandemic could offer opportunities to recruit from outside of the industry: “In light of increased unemployment across various sectors, there will be a move of new people from outside of the industry who will be seeking new opportunities to harness their transferable skills.”

Long-term plans

Ensuring that these recruitment figures continue to head in the right direction will see the ATSTN work with the UK government and Innovate UK to coordinate and improve the accessibility of training courses.

The spokesperson added that there are plans to expand the number of national training centers across the UK, which provide onsite specialist training.

The CGTC is also involved in the Advanced Therapies Apprenticeship Community that aims to bring people into the industry on an apprenticeship basis. This program began with the target of recruiting 50 apprentices by 2021, but has already exceeded this target by thus far enrolling 137 apprentices across 37 collaborating companies after being set up in 2018.

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