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Equipping our workforce with the correct skill set is crucial to ensuring the competitiveness of the Scottish Life and Chemical Sciences sectors.

Skills has been, and continues to be, a key priority for the Life Sciences Scotland and Chemical Sciences Scotland Industry Leadership Groups. The Life and Chemical Sciences sectors provide high quality jobs, and a vibrant environment which fosters opportunities for innovation and R&D.

However, the emergence of Industry 4.0, advancement in technology, and the uncertainties of Brexit pose skills challenges for both sectors

Recognising the many shared interests of our sectors, Chemical Sciences Scotland and Life Sciences Scotland agreed in early 2017 to merge their Skills Working Groups. Our first order of business has been to commission a combined Skills Investment Plan which looks at the likely skills requirements to sustain our industries over the next 10 - 15 years.

Reacting to skills challenges

The Skills Investment Plan development has involved taking stock of existing capabilities and reviewing future skills requirements, to ensure the sector can respond. We must continually react to the skills challenges that exist by ensuring that we provide the right people with the right blend of skills and expertise at the right time for our industry.

Primarily there is a need to address specific skills shortages in areas such as Engineering, Digital and Regulatory/ Quality. We must ensure our skills system is fit for purpose by being flexible and adaptable to give national coverage of all geographic areas.

At the same time, however, we must develop pathways which will enable Life and Chemical Sciences companies to recruit and develop experienced people as well as new entrants.

We are all aware of the wide diversity of roles found within the sectors. The Skills Investment Plan will help identify gaps in current training provision (be that vocational, graduate or CPD level) and allow the Skills Working Group to embed systemic change to ensure that every entrant to our sectors has access to clear training progression pathways that can be easily accessed by employers.

"Primarily there is a need to address specific skills shortages in areas such as Engineering, Digital and Regulatory/ Quality. We must ensure our skills system is fit for purpose by being flexible and adaptable to give national coverage of all geographic areas."

Alistair Cameron

Industry taking the lead

The Skills Investment Plan outlines the need for new Graduate Apprenticeships relevant to our industries, and highlights the need for more technical skills within the sectors that could be delivered through work-based learning.

As well as this, the evidence base allows us to engage with Scottish universities to ensure that their curricula are relevant to the needs of Scottish industry. We will also be engaging with local initiatives such as Developing the Young Workforce groups to actively promote the sectors to new entrants. Increasing the exposure and understanding of industry and enhancing the practical experience of those entering the sectors is also a priority.

Undergraduate level industry placements will play a key role in this. Enhanced career information and guidance across the entire education route should be available to allow individuals to make informed choices on the direction of travel for their career, whether that be a vocation or academic route into the sectors.

In all of these themes it is industry itself which will take the lead, with Skills Development Scotland acting as facilitator by working in partnership with employers, academia, training providers and other key stakeholders.

Delivering the goals in this Skills Investment Plan will create more jobs, more investment, and a stronger, more sustainable Scottish economy. We cannot stress enough how important it is that we in industry participate in the delivery to the fullest extent possible.

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