Since the Advanced Therapies Apprenticeship Community (ATAC) was founded in 2018, it has been introducing talent into many companies within the industry.

With our first ATAC apprentice graduating in 2020, these 137 apprentices have already made a measurable difference to the landscape of cell and gene therapy in the last two years. Completing their courses while working within 36 cell and gene therapy companies across the UK, their contribution is already leaving a lasting impact.

After receiving a grant of £1.5 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, in conjunction with the Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership (MMIP), set up ATAC to create a much-needed UK skills base, recognising the previously untapped potential in school leavers and graduates. By offering ten different apprenticeship courses, from A-Level to Masters degree equivalent, ATAC is targeting and empowering talented individuals who may want to work as they gain qualifications to advance in the advanced therapies industry.

Identifying the need in the advanced therapy industry

In the past two years, the Advanced Therapies industry has seen rapid growth with employment doubling from 1,500 to 3,000 skilled workers and industry turnover tripling from £100m to £300m. As more cell and gene therapy breakthroughs and developments are made, this exciting, emergent industry is set to expand even further.

Before ATAC was founded, The Advanced Therapies Manufacturing Taskforce’s 2018 report estimated that the UK would need 400-600 new skilled workers to keep up with the demand of this growing industry. Since this need has been identified, it has been further supported by CGT Catapult’s 2019 Skills Survey, which estimated that the industry would double in the next five years. 83% of participants also anticipated that recruitment and retention of essential talent would pose a challenge to that growth.

As the field is expanding quickly and requires highly specialised staff, the industry needed to advance more people into the growing number of skilled positions. Fulfilling this need in the industry has been ATAC’s main driving force, getting apprentices into positions from its inception. By integrating themselves into the industry workforce, these pioneering apprentices make an impact in addressing this need while undertaking their training.

Securing tomorrow’s talent in all areas of industry

There is no one route for an apprentice to take into the advanced therapies industry as ATAC has already developed ten different apprenticeships for team leaders, laboratory assistants, regulatory affairs specialists and more.

Aspiring apprentices can also have the flexibility to begin their course wherever they are in their higher education journey or career. Sixteen-year-old GCSE graduates can jumpstart their careers by learning fundamental skills on Level 3 courses which are the equivalent of A-levels. Those who have completed A-levels or higher can choose apprenticeships equivalent to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, knowing that they will be equipped with real work experience when they graduate.

For the full list of courses, click here.

Not only does ATAC give its apprentices the opportunity to contribute to the advanced therapies industry through their work, they develop their networking skills across the apprentice and professional community. By building these relationships so early in their career, apprentices graduate from ATAC with the tools to further progress in the cell and gene therapy workforce.

ATAC in action

Here are just two real-life examples of how our apprentices are making an impact.

Ksenia didn’t think she was in the right place in her life to quit work and pursue an MSc until she started a Level 7 apprenticeship in Regulatory Affairs with Oxford BioMedica in 2019. In less than three years, she will have the Masters degree she needs to be a regulatory affairs specialist without having to give up her earning power.

Companies welcoming apprentices have everything to gain, all while making an impact in the cell and gene therapy industry. Replimune has appreciated the value of being a part of the ATAC programme, bringing new talent into their workforce as well as to developing potential in an existing member of staff. As a rapidly growing company leading the way in oncolytic immunotherapies that treat many types of cancer, taking on two ATAC apprentices at different stages in their careers has taken Repulimune from strength to strength, further developing expert staff as Technician Scientists and Senior Leaders.

Impact on the cell and gene therapy industry

By recognising the need to nurture and develop UK talent in the Advanced Therapies industry, ATAC has already had a measurable impact in supporting industry.

ATAC currently has 137 apprentices in positions within 36 companies, addressing a sizeable proportion of the skills shortage identified by The Advanced Therapies Manufacturing Taskforce. Of these 36 companies, 12 are in Scotland and Wales, translating progress into ripples that can be felt across the UK.

With many of our apprentices expressing a passion for the industry on our testimonials page, looking to the future is bright for the cell and gene therapy industry.