Two new apprenticeship programmes aiming to address skills gaps and shortages in the biopharmaceutical sector and provide companies with an opportunity to access new talent and increase business growth were launched in late 2018, by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Richard Bruton T.D. Potential learners will become laboratory assistants and technicians, will have the chance to earn while they learn and will acquire nationally recognised qualifications at EQF levels 5 and 6 (NFQ 6 and 7) upon successful completion.
The programmes were developed by the industry (BioPharmaChem Ireland: a business group representing these sectors) in cooperation with the leading academic provider (Institute of Technology Tallaght) and are in line with the government’s plan to increase apprentices to 50 000 by 2020. The potential impact on economic growth is expected to be high, as the demand for experienced laboratory personnel has increased not only across the biopharmaceutical and chemical manufacturing sectors, but also in medical devices and diagnostics, food and drink and analytical testing laboratories. The development of these programmes can be seen party as a response to the report of the expert group on future skills needs, published in 2016, which identified skills shortages and gaps in the above areas, identifying them also as growth areas for jobs in Ireland.