Female scientist looks at a flask containing bright blue liquid

Urgent action on science apprenticeships required, say employers

By 10.05.16

The UK economy will need to attract and train up to 73,000 new science apprentices between now and 2025 to ensure the UK remains globally competitive in the 21st Century according to the Science Industry Partnership (SIP).

The first skills strategy by the SIP has forecasted that, over the next ten years, between 50,000 to 73,000 technical level jobs will be required to replace the existing workforce and to meet demand for people with high-level technical skills. The Gatsby Charitable Foundation has forecasted that we will need as many as 700,000 more technicians by 2020 to meet employers’ demands.

“In order to achieve growth there must be visible progression routes to higher level qualifications, through higher and degree apprenticeships, and on to even higher level qualifications”

SIP Skills Strategy

The SIP strategy also forecasts that demand for graduate level jobs over the same period will be between 96,000 and 142,000. Underpinning the strategy are a number of strategic objectives that professional bodies should carefully consider. These include:

  • Embedding vocational skills in the workforce to ensure that vocational routes, progression and skills solutions are respected by employers, providers and professional institutions
  • Build and update employees’ transferable science and business skills base to ensure that technologies and ideas can spread throughout science based activities and the wider economy
  • Support continuing professional development (CPD) and wider learning opportunities to ensure that employees have access and opportunity to refresh their skills

Science Council comment:

The Government has recognised that investment in science is crucial to increasing national productivity. To meet its goal of making the UK the best place in the world to do science, sustained investment in the skills of the current and future science workforce will be vital to achieving this.

High-quality science apprenticeships can help meet the increasing demand for high-level practical and technical science skills. Despite this demand, there is very low take-up of science apprenticeships. While it is welcome that the Government is looking to drive up apprenticeship numbers, the focus must be on quality as well as quantity. It may be that the new apprenticeship levy coming into effect in 2017 will increase numbers.

To ensure that science apprenticeships provide high-quality practical and technical education demanded by employers, standards need to be linked to the Registered Scientist and Registered Science Technician registers.

Professional bodies will continue to play a significant role in upholding professional standards will drive quality through the education system. Encouraging scientists and technicians to join their professional body will provide more of the science workforce with access to a wide range of professional development opportunities, thus enabling them to continue to refresh their knowledge and skills even as industries, sectors and technologies change.

The SIP ensures the apprenticeship standards for Laboratory Technician and Laboratory Scientist, which are linked to the Science Council’s registers for Registered Science Technician (RSciTech) and Registered Scientist (RSci) respectively.

The Science Council has also created a quick-check tool to help scientists and technicians decide, which of our professional registers is right for you.