Oxford Biomedica is a founding employer of the Advanced Therapies Apprenticeship Community (ATAC), being part of the programme since it launched in 2018 and is the first employer to have apprentices across all of ATAC’s apprenticeship programmes, from Levels 3 to 7.

The challenge: tackling the need for advanced skills through apprenticeships

Before recruiting and upskilling talent through the ATAC programme, Oxford Biomedica’s approach was to only hire highly experienced candidates or university graduates for their roles. Continuing to hire from such a limited recruitment base was going to become problematic and a potential barrier to Oxford Biomedica attracting future talent for company growth.

Oxford Biomedica identified ATAC through an industry connection and started considering how apprentices could be factored into their future talent acquisition plans to address their skills gap. Julie Copperthwaite, Head of Recruitment and Early Careers at Oxford Biomedica said,

“We could not attract the number of experienced people fast enough”.

After seriously considering how they could factor apprentices into addressing their skills gap, Oxford Biomedica decided to make them a part of their future talent plan. Julie adds,

“We became part of the pioneering group of employers to look at apprentices as an option and we haven’t looked back since.”


The impact: supporting Oxford Biomedica towards meeting their skills gap

The ATAC initiative provided Oxford Biomedica with a structured programme that allowed them to significantly deliver on their skills demands.

The ATAC team provided an organisational perspective of the programme and directly helped the apprentices through providing opportunities to network in the community, further developing their people skills. Support, such as this from the ATAC team, is necessary for companies who are new to apprenticeships, so that their apprentices can learn and grow as they work.

Oxford Biomedica started with offering one apprenticeship course and added more as they adapted to this new way of working. Julie noted,

“We would not have considered this option without ATAC.”


The outcome: successful embedding of the ATAC programme means apprentices account for 4% of workforce

This year Oxford Biomedica will have 4% of their workforce accounted for by apprentices. Recruiting apprentices through ATAC, with the structure and support of the programme, has given Oxford Biomedica the opportunity to grow their own talent. Across the company, mindsets around the value that apprentices can bring have shifted and now apprenticeships are fully integrated into the Oxford Biomedica workplace, both in recruiting new talent and upskilling existing employees.

Oxford Biomedica used the Level 3 Science Manufacturing Technician and Level 5 Technician Scientist programmes to recruit new talent, and then further encouraged those who succeeded to progress onto the Level 6 Laboratory Scientist programme. In addition, the company also promoted and supported existing staff to upskill using the Level 7 Regulatory Affairs, Level 7 Research Scientist or Senior Leader programmes. Oxford Biomedica also have plans to recruit more apprentices this year into the Level 3 and 5 programmes and are expanding to offer the Level 6 ATMP Bio/Chemical Engineer Degree Apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships have permanently shaped Oxford Biomedica’s approach to hiring and workplace development. Julie concluded describing the hiring of apprentices as a

“key part of our strategy and plans for the future.”


Developing skills and employability for the future

ATAC has prioritised a range of programmes, from entry-level to Master’s-equivalent apprenticeships, to bring in new talent and upskill staff for the rapidly growing UK cell and gene therapy industry. The number of ATAC apprentices more than doubled in one year, now standing at 136 apprentices employed across 36 UK companies, and the initiative continues to provide a platform for developing industry innovators of the future.


About Oxford Biomedica

Oxford Biomedica is a leading cell and gene therapy company focused on developing life-changing treatments for serious diseases including cancer, disorders of the central nervous system, liver diseases, respiratory disease, and inherited retinal and ocular diseases. They are developing cutting-edge science to become healthcare’s future, and of course most recently in the fight against COVID-19, through their three-year agreement with AstraZeneca for large-scale manufacturing of their COVID-19 vaccine.

Based across multiple locations in Oxford, the company brings together innovation, expertise and infrastructure, spanning the entire product development and commercialisation process.