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Action needed on life sciences skill shortages

05 June 2014

Education and industry need to work together to tackle a looming skills shortage in one of the UK’s most important sectors, according to a new report launched today by Hays Life Sciences.

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

For further press information please contact:

Kathryn Jones
T. 020 7200 3760

About Hays
Hays plc (the "Group") is a leading global professional recruiting group. The Group is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide, being the market leader in the UK and Asia Pacific and one of the market leaders in Continental Europe and Latin America. The Group operates across the private and public sectors, dealing in permanent positions, contract roles and temporary assignments. As at 31 December 2013 the Group employed 7,979 staff operating from 240 offices in 33 countries across 20 specialisms. For the year ended 30 June 2013:
- the Group reported net fees of £719 million and operating profit (pre-exceptional items) of £125.5 million;
- the Group placed around 53,000 candidates into permanent jobs and around 182,000 people into temporary assignments;
- 29% of Group net fees were generated in Asia Pacific, 40% in Continental Europe & RoW (CERoW) and 31% in the United Kingdom & Ireland;
- the temporary placement business represented 59% of net fees and the permanent placement business represented 41% of net fees;
- Hays operates in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, the UK and the USA

About BioIndustry Association                                
Founded 25 years ago at the infancy of biotechnology, the BioIndustry Association (BIA) is the trade association for innovative enterprises involved in UK bioscience. Members include emerging and more established bioscience companies; pharmaceutical companies; academic, research and philanthropic organisations; and service providers to the bioscience sector. The BIA represents the interests of its members to a broad section of stakeholders, from government and regulators to patient groups and the media. Our goal is to secure the UK's position as a global hub and as the best location for innovative research and commercialisation, enabling our world-leading research base to deliver healthcare solutions that can truly make a difference to people's lives.
For further information, please go to and

About MedCity

Established by the Mayor of London with the capital’s three Academic Health Science Centres - Imperial College Academic Health Centre, King’s Health Partners, and UCL Partners - MedCity is a unique collaboration that brings together the outstanding life sciences strengths of London and the greater south east.

Over the next 20 years, MedCity will position the region as a world-leading, interconnected hub for research, development, manufacturing and commercialisation by championing collaboration and entrepreneurship, promoting a joined up and globally distinct life sciences offer, and providing a visible ‘go-to’ point for industry and investors.

About London & Partners

London & Partners is the Mayor’s official promotional organisation for London. Our company attracts and delivers value to business, students and visitors. London & Partners is a not-for-profit public private partnership, funded by the Mayor of London and a network of commercial partners.

Our remit is to drive leisure and business visitors as well as bidding to secure major events in London, to unlock the city for overseas businesses who want to set up or expand in London and to promote the capital’s world class universities to international students.

Our intention is to work in partnership with organisations in London and across the world to deliver our goal - that London be globally recognised as the best big city on earth.

For more information visit      

Education and industry need to work together to tackle a looming skills shortage in one of the UK’s most important sectors, according to a new report launched today by Hays Life Sciences.


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