For National Apprenticeship Week and National Careers Week (6 – 12 March), Simon Mowat from AstraZeneca is putting the spotlight on how companies are working with schools to open up opportunities for students.
Ask a child at an early age what they want to be when they grow up and you tend to get similar answers. A fireman, an astronaut, a doctor or nurse, or even just 'famous'. You would be very surprised if they said they wanted to work in medicines manufacturing! However, for those that work in the industry, such as myself, we know that the future of the great work that we do is dependent on the next generation joining us and bringing their ideas and passion.
What is often obvious about the more traditional aspirations of younger students is that they are roles they see on a regular basis. Whether it's through television programmes on Fireman Sam, or the inspirational work of Tim Peake, they aspire to be what they see. That is why, as medicines manufacturers, we've been opening up our doors.
Medicines manufacturing is a complex but vital part of the chain that gets life-saving medicines to patients and our facilities and labs are the heart of our operations. It is about making a difference to the lives of people around the globe. Careers are varied and the excitement of every day is driven by cutting edge technology, factories and operations of the highest standard and, ultimately, medicines manufacturing offers you a career with opportunity for development, progression and real job satisfaction.
Many companies have begun to use STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and SIP (Science Industry Partnership) Ambassadors. These are professionals from companies who engage, inspire and enthuse young people into careers within science, tech, engineering and maths. These Ambassadors organise visits from local schools to provide hands on activities and tours of their laboratories. These visits aim to broaden student knowledge of where STEM subjects may lead you in terms of careers and jobs in the future.
They also provide the opportunity for students to ask the Ambassadors about their own career journeys, the subjects they studies and how they arrived at a career in the pharmaceutical industry, whilst companies can begin to build relationships with schools in the local community.
By being more visible about medicines manufacturing, we're shining a light on the possibilities of what a future career choice could be for these students. For some, this has meant rethinking GCSE or A-level choices, and it's encouraging to see students motivated to continue their STEM studies. For others, they've been encouraged to apply for work experience placements and apprenticeships within medicine manufacturing.
The feedback that we have received for our work is positive and highlights the responsibility that we have as an industry to be open and show how interesting and important the work that we do is. It also highlights the importance of working with local schools and teachers, showing the opportunities that there are to show science and maths in a new way to students and inspiring them for the future.
However, we recognise that there are limitations to those schools who perhaps are not local to a company lab or facility. For those, the ABPI has their own schools website, a great resource to support students, teachers and parents find out more about the entire pharmaceutical industry. The website has great content that enhances the science curriculum from primary through to A-level and Scottish Advanced Highers, including virtual tours of some industrial laboratories and pilot plants.
By taking science and maths out of the classroom into the 'real world', lightbulb moments can be created for many students and teachers alike and we hope to see more companies, and schools, working together. Few things are as rewarding as inspiring the next generation and I encourage all companies to engage with their local schools. For help in doing this there are some great resources, specific to the science industries, available through the SIP Ambassadors Programme.