Life sciences apprentice scheme to go UK-wide

A SCOTTISH apprenticeship scheme that has produced dozens of trainees for the life sciences industry is being extended across the UK.

Sixteen life science companies took part in the programme during the first year, with 44 apprentices completing on-the-job technical training.

A further 21 trainees working in the NHS in Scotland have used the modern apprenticeship scheme, which was run by Semta, the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies.

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The scheme received such a warm reception from employers that it is now being rolled out south of the border, with some 150 apprentices expected to pass through the programme in its first year.

There are about 630 life science companies operating in Scotland, between them employing about 32,500 people. The industry is estimated to add 1.3 billion of gross value to the Scottish economy.

Lynn Tomkins, UK operations director at Semta, said the programme was being extended following strong demand.

She said: "Employers in England and Wales listened to their colleagues in Scotland and saw the benefit of taking on apprentices. We hope to have the framework in place by September."

In Scotland, the apprenticeship scheme was run in conjunction with the Adam Smith College in Fife, Dundee College, Forth Valley College and Inverness College.

Louise Rice, director of human resources at BioReliance, a US firm that provides testing and manufacturing services to pharmaceutical companies, said she had put three apprentices through the scheme and was looking to recruit a further three or four trainees this year.

She said: "I've worked in the industry for 20 years and I've seen that the universities were just not producing graduates with any clinical experience.

"But the apprenticeship scheme has produced excellent results for us and I'd like to recruit five or six trainees each year through the scheme."

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Graeme Boyle, director of Nexxus, the central belt's life sciences network, said: "The life science industry warmly supports this extension as it directly addresses the issue of sourcing and developing skilled staff. Skilled staff are recognised as vital in securing the future of Scotland's start-ups and the continuing prosperity of our established organisations."