Cogent Skills works across the science sector, representing Life Sciences (pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical technology and consumer healthcare), the Industrial Sciences (chemicals, downstream, industrial bio-technology, polymers, coatings, advanced materials and formulations), Nuclear energy and the Nuclear defence programme.
The science-based sector comprises some of the UK’s most strategically important, value-adding and innovative employers in the UK. It supports our healthcare needs, provides critical and innovative products for industrial and consumer markets, the raw materials for supply chains, and a low-carbon, secure, electricity supply.
Within this highly skills-intensive footprint there are around 602,000 employees contributing in excess of £34bn in GVA to the UK economy. The sector’s productivity, at around £57,300 GVA per employee, represents a high-value contribution, particularly when benchmarked against the UK employee average of around £23,000.
These industries are developing technologies that improve lives and underpin the sustainability of the UK, but depend on a continued flow STEM skills.
The industries have an ageing workforce: in the process manufacturing sector just under forty per cent of the existing workforce is over 45 years old, which requires a high replacement demand over the next five to ten years. For nuclear the fraction rises to 50%. This is compounded by cross-industry shortages of skilled technicians and the fact that the industry is reliant on STEM skills-sets, which have been in decline in recent years.
The activities of these industries are also both safety critical, and in some cases carbon/energy intensive and hence are heavily regulated from both a safety and environmental perspective. Quality control is critical to the life sciences sector to protect patients from potentially unsafe, non-effective or poor-quality drugs, and devices/equipment.
In the nuclear sector, quality control affects all aspects of the industry, from manufacturing and construction, to operation and, ultimately, decommissioning and disposal.
Structural and technological developments have changed the way we do business. In the science industries, particularly life sciences, there has been a move from single corporate entities to collaborative ventures with smaller companies and the increased outsourcing of research and development to a growing supply chain. Digitalisation, artificial intelligence and big data are also key drivers.
Other drivers include climate change, sustainability and the need to reduce the sectors’ environmental impact.
The Government has set out a series of Grand Challenges in its Industrial Strategy: Artificial Intelligence and data, ageing society, clean growth and the future of mobility.
It is working with all sectors to develop ambitious missions to tackle these Grand Challenges. Each of these will focus on a specific problem, bringing government, businesses and organisations across the country together to make a real difference to people’s lives
Cogent Skills works strategically, via its membership business unit and operationally through its delivery business units to meet these challenges head on.