Careers Taskforce Tackles UK Science Skills Gaps


A new Careers Taskforce to help combat widening skills gaps in the UK industry is being launched by the Science Industry Partnership (SIP), with support from Cogent Skills.

The Careers Taskforce is the latest component of an established national outreach programme led by the SIP, an employer-led membership alliance representing over 30 leading science organisations from AstraZeneca and Pfizer to GSK and Fujifilm.

The group will help innovate science careers outreach delivered in schools, colleges, and at youth groups to urgently meet UK sector demands and inspire the next generation to become the future workforce in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) industries.

The Careers Taskforce will help shape critical science industry strategies and consist entirely of younger employees from organisations who have all undertaken ‘Ambassador’ careers outreach training delivered by the SIP. 

Paul Hunt, R&D Director at Victrex, SIP Board Member, and careers advocate, said:

“After the SIP undertook research in 2018 in response to the Life Sciences Sector Deal, our ambition has been to bolster the 250,000 skilled scientific and technical employees needed in the UK through to 2025. 

“Now, against a backdrop of COVID-19 vaccine development and rapid scientific innovation, it is more vital than ever to maintain outreach activities to strengthen future talent in the science sectors. We are, therefore, switching things up at the SIP with a novel approach to governance, amplifying the voice of those starting their career in the science industry. 

“Those with a greater understanding and closer connection to the next generation of science professionals will help form the strategies that affect them. We hope that this work will help to deliver the investment and changes necessary for creating a world-class skills system and support the UK in becoming a science superpower by 2025.”

Since the creation of the SIP in October 2013, the alliance has engaged the scientific community in careers outreach to help plug the growing skills gap in the sector. The SIP campaigns for quality apprenticeship standards and the representation of science throughout the skills system. Providing ‘one voice’ to the Government, the SIP ensures that the industry is heard and that skills policy and future public investment is made for future competitiveness, productivity, and growth.

Rachel Brickell, Careers Manager at Cogent Skills, said:

“We already give member organisations the tools to educate young people about the depth and variety of job prospects available to them in this diverse industry. Fundamental to this offer is interactive careers outreach training. Fully trained volunteers from our member organisations form the SIP Ambassador Programme, and this network is at the heart of our careers strategy. To date, we have trained over 600 SIP Ambassadors from over 100 science-industry employers. 

“We empower these individuals with the skills to deliver demos and presentations about their career histories, talk about the breadth of careers available in science, and promote opportunities for students in their community. Ambassadors attend schools, colleges, and even youth organisations such as Cadets to showcase fascinating 
STEM occupations.

“Now, with this new Careers Taskforce steering the SIP’s outreach agenda, a more diverse cohort of students will get access to science careers education and learn about aspirational vocations. As a result, we are widening participation and opening progression routes for the next generation of scientific talent. The long-term goal is to manage skills shortages while giving back to the community and generating positive exposure to STEM.”   

The Careers Taskforce is Chaired by Danny Acquisto, Associate Scientist at GSK, who benefitted from careers outreach himself. After hearing a GSK talk at his school, Danny enrolled on a degree apprenticeship programme in Applied Bioscience at the University of Kent. He now works at GSK and is sharing his own experience with others in the community.

Danny said:

“[Since completing the Ambassador training] I certainly feel better equipped and more confident to deliver events, and the resources you can access make things a lot easier, but I think more people need to know that this type of support is available.  […] I’d like others to know the full range of career options out there, how a STEM career can be so rewarding and that there are a different career entry routes available.” 

Alongside the Taskforce, the SIP is also celebrating a new partnership with STEM Learningthe UK’s largest provider of education and careers support in STEM. Collaborating with organisations with such a broad reach is opening up even more resources and support for SIP membership organisations.