Workshops took place across the country to focus on the pivotal role of advanced therapies apprenticeships in addressing the skills demand in the industry. Apprentices, employers, schools and careers professionals were in attendance to consider the impact of the ATAC initiative so far and how to enhance its reach moving forward.

During national apprenticeship week, the Advanced Therapies Apprenticeship Community (ATAC) hosted events across the country to share the benefits of apprenticeships in the growing industry, helping UK cell and gene therapy businesses grow and providing fresh talent for companies. The ATAC team travelled to Manchester, Stevenage and Oxford on consecutive days, providing regional workshops for key stakeholders, to also share ideas on how to continue the growth of the initiative.

The cell and gene therapy industry in the UK currently supports over 3,000 jobs, a six-fold increase since 2012, and employment in the sector is set to more than double by 2024 as more innovative therapies progress towards commercialisation. There is an increasing demand for skills to support this growth, and the ATAC initiative is striving to communicate the value of apprenticeships in supplying this demand.

During the ATAC national apprenticeship week roadshow, breakfast and lunchtime workshops were held to engage with school career advisors, local enterprise partnerships, training providers and employers from companies of all sizes. Presentations and panel discussions let delegates hear from members of ATAC, including participating companies and the budding apprentices on programme, to find out how advanced therapies apprenticeships can benefit them. Some items of discussions focused on addressing the stigma surrounding apprenticeships and the challenge of making students, parents and schools aware of apprenticeships as an option to pursue to grow or progress your career.

In response to recommendations by the Medicine Manufacturing Industry Partnership (MMIP) Advanced Therapies Manufacturing Taskforce, the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (CGT Catapult) was awarded £1.5 million by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to establish ATAC in 2018. The purpose of the community was to develop and facilitate the first apprenticeship programmes designed specifically to train and upskill staff in the advanced therapies sector. There are already 66 apprentices on 5 programmes of different levels, at 21 participating companies, and the community aims to launch more programmes and reach 100 apprentices this year.

This roadshow has proved a hugely valuable exercise, with many outcomes to take away to ensure the momentum of ATAC continues over the coming year. To find out more about ATAC, please visit the website here.

Dr Stephen Ward, Chief Manufacturing Officer, CGT Catapult: “The Advanced Therapies Apprenticeship Community has already made huge strides, bringing together industry and academia to design and deliver apprenticeship programmes of all levels. By hosting this roadshow during national apprenticeship week, we were able to spread further the word on advanced therapies apprenticeships and engage with key stakeholders across the UK. I am confident that the ATAC programme will continue to progress over the coming year, introducing new standards and reaching over one hundred apprentices on programme. This programme is only the beginning of what is needed to address the scale of the demand for specialised skilled personnel as more cell and gene therapies reach the clinics and commercial scale production.”