The Irish economy is one of the fastest growing in Europe and this is especially evident in the Life Sciences market where the rate of growth in jobs is staggering and we are predicting will continue for the next 12 months.
In the current market our clients across all sectors of the Life Science market are struggling to find the skills and talent that they need and must fight to hold onto the key resources that they have. Roles in Automation, Compliance/Quality, CSV and Process Engineering are in continuous demand. In order to fill the skill gaps, many companies are now investing in internal training programs, graduate programs and third party training partners like Skillnets and NiBRT. In all this upskilling and training one of the most skilled groups in the industry are generally overlooked. The professional contractors.

 

LSC conducted a survey of industry contractors to gauge the level of Continuous Professional Development (CPD)by contractors in the life sciences industry. The outcomes of the survey make for interesting reading.

 

  • Background information on the survey respondents:
  • 2/3 of respondents were Ltd company contractors and 1/3 fixed term agency contractors
  • 80% of respondents had more than 10 years of industry experience
  • 83% had a qualification in Engineering or Science with IT/Finance/Humanities making up the remainder
  • Current roles:
    • 20% – Project Management/ Project Engineering
    • 16% – Quality (QC/QA)
    • 15% – Automation/MES
    • 12% – Validation
    • 15% – C&Q
    • 22% – Supply chain / Finance / Training / Design / Graduate Eng / Specialist

 

Summary of respondents/responses to LSC Contractor CPD survey:
  • Approx. 75% of respondents have not attended a training course in the last 2 years
  • 50% of respondents spend zero on CPD (no training, lectures, subscriptions or memberships)
  • 75% of respondents are not a member of any professional or industry body
  • The percentage of the total respondents who are members of technical/scientific professional bodies:
    • 13% Engineers Ireland
    • 6% ISA
    • 4 % ISPE
    • 2 % IchemE
  • 55% of respondents felt that there were courses available to meet their CPD needs (including on-line/distance courses), although costs and locations of available courses did come up as a hurdle, as well as theavailability of some specialist courses (e.g. automation).
  • When we asked “why aren’t you completing CPD”, the majority of responses to this question indicated that
    • they didn’t have time at the moment (Working long hours and/or in high stress project environments)
    • they were reluctant to do training as most training is during the working day and contractors must forgo a day’s wages and pay for the training (a double financial cost)

 

What is Continuous Professional Development (CPD)?

 

It is a structured process of formal and informal learning for professionals. Engineers Ireland define it as:
“The systematic maintenance, enhancement and development of knowledge and skill, and the development of personal qualities necessary for the execution of professional and technical duties throughout the practising engineering professional’s career.”

 

From January 1st 2017 CPD will be mandatory for all members of Engineers Ireland. A minimum of 5 days / 35 Hours CPD will be required per annum
A CPD plan may include training courses, being a member of a professional body, technical/industry publication subscriptions or attending lectures/seminars related to your area of expertise.
The purpose of CPD is to keep the individual up to date with current industry trends and changes to safeguard the public, the employer, the professional and the professional’s career. The majority of Life Science companies have active and progressive internal CPD and training programs for permanent staff.
Companies recognize the need to upskill and invest in people, however training budgets are targeted at permanent employees, not contractors. As the market changes the permanent employees will be upskilled and trained to stay current with the latest technologies, processes and trends. Where does that leave the professional contractors?

 

Why should contractors invest in their CPD?

 

The Life Science market in Ireland has changed dramatically in the last 10 years with existing facilities seeking to become more agile, flexible, cost efficient and global. The new facilities or projects often are in areas of new technology and/or innovative equipment or meeting new regulatory requirements which demand skills where there is little or no experience available.
These changes are potentially only the tip of the iceberg. Earlier this year LSC staff attended events in Scandinavia and Ireland on Continuous manufacturing and upcoming changes in how drugs are manufactured. In the May-June 2016 edition of the ISPE Pharmaceutical Engineering magazine in an excellent feature looking at the factory of the future there is a suggestion that “Pharmaceutical Sciences may be close to entering its own “Moore’s Law” era”. The rate of change of the physical sciences and hence the pace of drug discovery is going to increase exponentially over the next number of years. The industry has been talking about change including continuous manufacturing, improved data analytics and real time release for quite some time and the implementation of theseconcepts/technologies are becoming a reality.
As these market changes occur they offer enormous opportunities for contract professionals who have the most up to date and sought after skills. For those already in the sector it places pressure on the relevance of their current skill sets and potentially reduces opportunities on new and expanding sites into the future.
A professional contractor is effectively a small business owner who must be continuously selling their service and increasingly in this fast paced market be seen to be one step ahead of their clients. This means ensuring your skill sets don’t just reflect what you have done in the past, but what you can do to support the client’s needs as they change in to the future.
Whether you are a contractor for short term before you return to a staff role or are a contractor for life, the need to future proof your resume to make yourself more relevant and valuable to a future employer/client is critical.

 

Summary

 

The results of our survey highlight that the majority of this talented, highly skilled professional group of contractors are not actively engaged in CPD. It needs to remembered that it is only eight years ago that the market was in freefall and the majority of companies were shedding contractors, terminating contracts early or making significant rate cuts. In both a growing and contracting market everyone understands the value and importance of CPD, training and further education for personal development, but finding space in this busy life is difficult. Anecdotally during the downturn those consultants with the most progressive skill sets were the ones who were least impacted.
While the respondents to the survey indicated that they felt appropriate courses/industry events were available, the majority are held during the working day from Monday to Friday. While the various industry bodies (for exampleISA, IPSE and Engineers Ireland)do run talks in the evenings the range of events on offer during the evenings is far less than during the day.
While all in the Life Science industry are working hard to overcome the current skills shortages, an eye must be kept to the future. We need to think of creative ways of facilitating the CPD of industry professionals. A first step may be to make more technology training and future focused / informative events available outside of hours for professionals (staff and contractor) to attend. Also in the current market where some companies are offering contract completion bonuses, could companies seek to differentiate themselves from the rest and offer a CPD support package to contractors?

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