Setting the Bar for Early Talent Innovation and Forging the Path for the UK Life Sciences Future Growth…

Cpl Life Sciences UK is proud to have been part of the trailblazer groups for the first clinical research apprenticeships in industry – Clinical Trial Specialist degree apprenticeship (Level 6), and the Regulatory Affairs Specialist (Level 7) both launched in 2019. It is part of our ongoing work and commitment to ensure the worsening skills shortages in the UK life sciences sectors are addressed, through proactive initiatives and programmes to bring in new talent and upskill/reskill current workforces. We have always been passionate about ‘giving back’ and have dedicated a huge amount of investment (both time and funding) into various programmes.

The University of Kent Clinical Trials Specialist degree apprenticeship (Level 6) works in collaboration with Clinical Professionals Ltd (now Cpl Life Sciences), and aims to advance the skills of those in the clinical research/trials field and attract new staff. It is suitable for people who work as part of a multi-disciplinary team which focusses on the delivery and execution of Phase I-IV clinical trials, in private or public clinical research organisations. Typical roles that the apprentices my hold within their host organisations may include: Clinical Trials Assistant/Administrator, Clinical Research Associate and Study Co-ordinator with development to Clinical Project Manager.

What has become evident since these programmes started is the general lethargy in life sciences organisations around investing into new early talent programmes and lack of ‘thinking outside the box’ when it comes to talent strategy for the future growth of their business.  It seems utterly bizarre that companies paying, sometimes millions, into the levy pot are not even investigating the different schemes out there they can take advantage of.  All too often hurdles are created almost as an impasse to even considering these options, but actually when carefully considered they are very easy to overcome as a business and move forward.

Robert Edwards, Director of Training & Development at Cpl comments ‘‘Cpl life sciences is committed to giving back to the industry in the form of development opportunities with the spin off benefit of actively addressing the skills and experience gap that has existed in our industry for a long time now. Our actions in the apprenticeship arena back up our words!’

​The ones that have quickly adopted these new programmes already have new teams of highly intelligent and articulate apprentices moving forward on an accelerated growth trajectory, and proven increases in retention already across the internal teams.  Feedback from companies who have apprentices on the CTS apprenticeship course have commented on how mature their attitudes are, how quickly they have settled and undertaken highly responsible tasks, despite being in a remote-based pandemic working environment, and above all the massively positive impact they have brought to their team and business.  They have highlighted personal drive, engagement, accountability and productivity in all the individuals.  By having a robust selection and hiring process these apprentices have added value more quickly than some experienced hires, and are far more cost-effective.  This is across large pharma, medium pharma, biotech, large and medium CROs, and NHS and other institutes.

Sarah Goddard, Global Director of Talent Solutions, added “being on the trailblazer groups from the start and seeing these apprenticeships now being used to bring through tomorrow’s life science talent has been an incredible journey.  The quality of the apprentices going through the programmes and their trajectory over the first few years in industry just proves the enormous benefits these programmes can bring to businesses.  Not only do they offer those more disadvantaged an opportunity where there previously was none, they also ensure clients have dedicated employees, succession plans and a culture of development in teams.  Working with local communities to ensure you are giving everyone opportunities actually means you are living and breathing a diverse and inclusive business!”

With the UK facing skills shortages heightening due to Brexit, increased outsourcing and other factors, organisations choosing these innovative initiatives will almost certainly have a competitive advantage when it comes to long-term talent strategy especially with retention of staff which will be absolutely critical over the next 5 to 10 years for any business.

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Sarah Goddard