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What Skills Are the Life Sciences Sector Looking For?

04 May 2021

By Jay Freeman

What Skills Are the Life Sciences Sector Looking For?

In a sector looking to meet the demand of 133,000 jobs in the next ten years with a £73.8bn turnover generated per annum, changes in both what a job role requires and how it is filled are inevitable.

In our last blog, we spoke about the skills gap in the life sciences sector and which areas were sought-after.

This week, we’ll be discussing which skills candidates could develop to fill these skill gaps, and how they can go about doing so.

A recap on the skill gaps in the life sciences sector

Projections show that by 2030, to meet the expect growth demands of the sector and replace retirees, the sector will need 133,000 jobs, with Med Tech and Med Tech manufacturing at the top of list (with 90,000 jobs and 46,500 respectively).

This also comes at a time when 55,000 workers are set to replace retirees across the life sciences – all of which will need to hold the research, manufacturing or technical skills required to join the sector.

Data analytics, leadership, statistical literacy and digital/computational skills are the main areas noted as skill gaps in the sector.

So, what skills should you be developing?

A lot of the skills that are in high demand in the life sciences sector are soft or transferable skills – in short, skills that aren’t necessarily from an academic background or job experience in life sciences.

The key areas mentioned above are the main areas we’ll be focusing on, as they are in the highest demand and therefore the most beneficial to develop for candidates.

Digital and computational skills

In one of the most innovative sectors, it’s no surprise that digital skills are in demand. 

Data modelling and programming skills are in particularly high demand due to the necessity to build programs and infrastructure for medicines manufacturing.

As mentioned in the Life Sciences 2030 Skills Strategy report, supporting career agility to allow new talent to enter the industry from different disciplines and sectors is what will ensure skills diversity, whilst also facilitating collaboration.

This means that, if you are a candidate with strong digital and computational skills that doesn’t have a conventional background to enter the life sciences sector, you still have the skills that are important to fill the gaps.

Which areas in particular need digital and computational skills?

Primarily, research and development scientists and data science and informatics are areas requiring strong digital skills, which also has some overlap with statistical literacy (another in-demand skill in the sector).

Data modelling and programming skills would be particularly beneficial to have, in order to assist with building programs and infrastructure for medicines manufacturing, as an example.

If you have a strong inclination towards data modelling, programming or other areas of digital ability, you may be exactly what the sector is looking for.

Statistical literacy

Large, rich datasets are an integral part of the life sciences sector.

This is why strong statistical skills are sought-after in the industry, particularly in biomedical research which relies on rich healthcare data.

It isn’t just about producing the research, but also having the analytical ability to make use of it as well.

There is a growing need for candidates who not only have the statistical ability to produce datasets, but also the skills to put all of the data into context and interpret it.

Which areas need statistical literacy?

Across the sector, statistical literacy is a valuable skill.

However, particular job roles in computational biology, bioinformatics, or research and development may be the primary choices, as they utilise skills such as applied mathematics and statistics, alongside other industry-specific skills.

Developing your statistical, mathematical and analytical ability can give you a strong foundation to build on in multiple directions in the sector, as statistical literacy is such a necessary skill.

Leadership and communication

As the expansion of the sector and workforce increases, the need for candidates with strong leadership skills to help companies navigate a period of growth has never been higher.

The rapid digitalisation of the sector at large means that those with an entrepreneurial mindset, or those who are skilled with team management and communication on a wider scale, are necessary to meet the new demands of technology.

Communicating the advances in medicines and medical technology are cited as areas of interest, as is promoting the digitalisation of the sector.

Which areas need leadership and communication skills?

As with statistical literacy, leadership and communication skills are equally sought-after.

One of the areas that strong leadership skills could thrive in is regulatory and compliance, quality management and overseeing the changes in the sector to address the skills shortages.

Collaboration is changing in the sector, too, which means that inter-disciplinary working and effective communication are key to continued success on a global and domestic scale.

If you are a candidate with experience in leadership roles, particularly during periods of technological advancement in a sector, this is a strong skill to have, especially if you have substantial knowledge of the sector to pair with your experience.

Key takeaway

To deliver innovation and growth in employment, the way that the life sciences sector recruits candidates is changing.

Skills capabilities across digital, computational, statistics and leadership are in high demand across the board – which means that the traditional academic or job experience routes aren’t the only path into the sector.

Technical competencies are always going to be extremely advantageous, however, you may still be a great fit for a role based on your skills alone.

At a time when upskilling and retraining will be huge in the life sciences sector, entering the industry with skills means that you can build upon your specific knowledge whilst within a role, if you still tick a lot of the boxes.

There’s never been a better time to have transferable skills and a passion for the sector!

If you’d like to find the best life sciences vacancies, you can get in touch with the Panda team today, and we can be with you every step of the way in your job search.
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