Tackling the Skills Shortage in Life Sciences: Internships and Apprenticeships

By Kim Ciconte Vice President, Global Client Lead, KellyOCG

Kim Ciconte explores how apprenticeships and internships can help Life Sciences organizations connect with emerging talent.

 It can be a steep learning curve moving from the classroom to the workplace in Life Sciences. Applying complex scientific knowledge while learning the culture, technology and practices of a brand-new working environment is no small task. This may be one reason why more and more organizations within the sector are increasing the scope of their internships, specialized fellowships, and apprentice programs. Early outreach to skilled students across Life Sciences not only provides students with much-needed hands-on experience, it also helps employers cultivate lasting relationships with in-demand talent.

I take a look at the evolving role of internship and apprenticeship schemes, below.

Rethinking Internships and Apprenticeships  

When we think of internships, we often imagine an unpaid and overworked student grabbing coffee for co-workers alongside other monotonous tasks. This is a perception that is quickly shifting as Life Sciences employers engage students earlier in their academic career and provide internships with a deeper connection to the important work they do. Many are paid positions and offer access to the real-world applications of the concepts and subjects that students are studying as part of their wider learning. They also enable students to obtain critical industry and company specific technology skills needed to apply their classroom skills in a highly automated and technology driven work environment. Some are built into the structure of college courses. Apprenticeships are also evolving to meet the changing needs of students and businesses, expanding beyond traditional blue-collar industries to offer entry-level opportunities across the scientific world and helping young people to combine learning and earning as they build meaningful careers in Life Sciences.

Building Lasting Relationships

The changing approach to the next generation of Life Sciences talent has far-reaching impact beyond the classroom and lab. In a time of low employment and where competition between organizations for top talent is fierce, these growing relationships can provide businesses with access to hard-to-find skills. They also help new talent not only familiarise themselves with the mechanics and practicalities of the roles they are working towards but with the culture and values of the organizations they are partnering with. While employers have the opportunity to get to know the people who could go on to play a vital part in their future workforce. 

Reaching Out through Universities and Schools

In order to build strong relationships with emerging talent, Life Sciences organizations have to cultivate relationships with schools and universities. This could be through sponsored internship programs, taking part in career events, or offering learning sessions in schools or on campus. Carefully cultivated relationships with educational institutions can help organizations to build strong skills pipelines and to make meaningful connections which could support their businesses into the future. What’s more, these types of activities ensure that young people remain actively engaged with the world of STEM and excited about the career possibilities the sector could hold.

The gap between education and work will continue to close as Life Sciences organizations strive to build a clearly defined pathway to world-changing careers. It also represents an unprecedented opportunity for employers to access new skills and ideas. It’s an opportunity that is far too valuable to be overlooked. Those who embrace the changing nature of apprenticeships and internships may find themselves better prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow.