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Action needed on life sciences skill shortages

The new Hays Life Sciences Salary Guide & Market Overview highlights the challenges faced by employers recruiting across the industry, with over half (55%) saying they expect to encounter a shortage of experienced applicants when recruiting in the next 12 months.

As competition for talent increases salary expectations have also risen. Almost two-thirds of employers (65%) have increased salaries in the past 12 months, and a greater number (67%) expect to do so again in the next year. The report also highlights significant movement in the sector, as 76% of employees expect to move jobs within the next two years.

A growing area of recruitment is biometrics, where demand for statisticians, SAS programmers and data managers has risen in recent months due to increasing in outsourcing of clinical trials to clinical research organisations. In response to growing skill shortages in this area companies are increasingly recruiting from other countries within the EU.

The report also highlights some of the measures needed to achieve greater gender balance in the profession, such as supporting women to reach leadership positions through mentoring schemes and implementing flexible recruitment and working options to retain women in the workforce. 

Mark Weller, Director for Hays Life Sciences, said, “Life sciences has historically struggled to attract the necessary talent into areas other than the well-known roles of doctor, pharmacists and vets, but as demand for innovative, more cost-effective and better value healthcare solutions increases, we will need more scientists, engineers and technicians. We need to start thinking ahead about where this talent will come from.

In areas such as biometrics we are seeing salaries and contractor rates rising because of skill shortages, and if a future pipeline of talent is not developed this will continue. Increasing the number of graduate schemes and entry-level opportunities is part of the solution, as well as making young people aware of opportunities in life sciences at an earlier stage in their education.”

Steve Bates, CEO of the BioIndustry Association, said, “Hays has produced an insightful and illuminating report on employment trends in the life sciences sector. The increasing need for biometrics skills tallies with the increased emphasis on data analysis amongst regulators, NICE and the NHS when planning schemes such as the Early Access to Medicines Scheme for example. Likewise, the increasing need for employees with expertise in pharmacovigilance is a direct reflection of recent regulatory developments and new legislation in this area.

It is encouraging to see the improving confidence in the market reflected in increased mobility amongst employees and expectations of salary rises this year. However, more needs to be done to address the mismatch between employer’s needs and the pool of talent available in some areas, and BIA will continue its work with the sector skills council, Cogent and others to ensure the UK’s skills base continues to support the development of ground breaking medicines for patients.”

Sarah Haywood, Head of Life Sciences at London & Partners, and acting Chief Operating Officer of MedCity, an initiative launched by Mayor of London Boris Johnson in April to raise the global profile of London’s life sciences sector, said, “Life sciences is an area of growth, but it relies on great people to power it forward, and particularly people who understand that the future of healthcare lies in agile cross-sector and cross-disciplinary working. In an international competition for talent, we particularly need to do everything we can to keep our experienced entrepreneurs, who have run successful companies and know what it takes to turn a great idea into a thriving business. We must ensure that this is the best place for them to grow their business, which is why supporting easier access to collaborators, investors, industry and facilities is a key priority for MedCity.

It’s also crucial to recognise that we cannot afford to waste the knowledge and experience of women who have made successful careers in the sector but often find they face barriers as they progress. A clear message from this report is that the companies winning the war for talent are those offering flexible working – an approach that benefits both men and women.”    

For more information on the Hays Life Sciences Salary Guide visit


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