Education is key for a thriving Life and Chemical Sciences sector in Scotland

The Life and Chemical Sciences Sector in Scotland continues to face challenges in developing a highly skilled workforce and an awareness from young people about what careers in the sector are available. In response, Edinburgh Napier University, supported by the Scottish Universities Life Science Alliance (SULSA) and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) hosted the Scottish Life and Chemical Sciences Skills Summit on Thursday 28 September at Craiglockhart Campus.

The aim of the summit focuses on solutions in two priority areas: (1) work readiness skills of new entrants and (2) collaboration between industry and academia.

The summit opened with Dr. Claire Garden, Associate Professor and Head of Teaching and Learning, School of Applied Sciences at Edinburgh Napier University and Chair of the SULSA Skills Committee giving opening remarks honing in over a decade of work in the life science skills space. She has brought this summit to life bringing together approximately 70 individuals comprising of industry from the life and chemical sciences sector, college and university staff, innovation centres, and wider public sector agencies.

Dr. Claire Garden

Mr. Ivan McKee MSP delivered the keynote speech for the summit to a room of widely attentive and keen professionals throughout his remarks. McKee noted, that the Life and Chemical Sciences sector is identified in the UK Innovation Strategy and is a priority area that Scotland can be competitive in internationally. McKee is also a member of the Cross-Party Group in the Scottish Parliament on Life Sciences and showed his enthusiasm for the potential of what the sector can do for Scotland’s economy. McKee stated that “a strong skills pipeline is essential to support Scotland’s fast-growing life and chemical science sector. I’m delighted to see the work of SULSA, bringing Universities, colleges, industry, and government agencies together at today’s skill summit to take forward concrete collaborative actions to address this need”.

The education system (including colleges, universities, training providers, and work-based learning/apprenticeships) is critical for the industry to retain and attract talent in the sector in Scotland. The solutions discussed in breakout sessions and workshops will mark the first step to influencing what comes next in the industry. According to Dr. Claire Garden, “the Summit was a resounding success where clear themes emerged. Work is already underway to address skills needs across the sector, however, there is a requirement for further support to share them in a visible way. There was also a clear desire for further opportunities to collaborate on targeted solutions.  Further details will be outlined in our report later in the year.”