Graduate Employability Masterclasses Inspiring the Next-Generation of Life Scientists in Scotland


There has rarely been a time when science has had such a direct impact on our day-to-day lives. But the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact this has had on our National Health Services, and the climate crises has led to a huge demand for scientists within Scotland and the UK, and internationally. The Scottish Life Sciences sector, in particular, has seen a steady growth over the last 5 years and currently employs 40,000 people with plans for further growth. The demand for employees with life sciences background will continue to grow and that is why the Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance (SULSA) is delivering the Graduate Employability Masterclasses to undergraduate and postgraduate students across Scotland to make them “industry ready.”

The Graduate Employability Masterclass programme is the brainchild of Kevin Moore OBE, owner of Business Therapies Ltd., who designed industry-led masterclasses in 2013 and drove the programme forward alongside Ronnie Palin, Regional Skills Planning Lead at Skills Development Scotland. Over the course of six workshops, students were brought through the process of identifying opportunities and niches in the market, bringing an idea forward through development and manufacturing, and launching a product or service into the market. It demonstrates the breadth of roles available to students with a life sciences degree and gives students a focus for their professional development. In 2021, SULSA took lead on this programme and delivered it online to over 500 students from 12 universities across Scotland. 

The successful delivery of this course online would not be possible without the dedication of academics and careers staff at our universities. They worked tirelessly to connect their students to industry at a time when they were missing out so many of the practical elements of their course including final year laboratory projects and industry internships. And from the feedback we received, it is clear that both students and industry appreciated the effort. Emma Garrell from Charles River laboratories, a global pharmaceutical company with a preclinical facility at Tranent said they are “regularly looking for new talent to join their various departments and hope by showcasing just a few f the lesser-known career paths available that [they] have given them [the students] some inspiration for pushing their careers forward.”

“The knowledge and connections that I gained throughout the masterclass are invaluable and opened my eyes to the wide range of opportunities that my biomedical science degree actually has to offer. I would highly recommend if given the opportunity to participate in the life science masterclass to definitely do it.”

Claudia, 3rd year student, Abertay University

Companies and universities involved in the 2020-21 Graduate Employability Masterclasses are below.

The 2021-22 series of masterclasses are already underway. Even though the UK is “opening back up” after the pandemic, there are still strict health and safety rules in place in both university and industry labs. This means that opportunities for students to get hands on experience are sparse, which is why programmes like the Graduate Employability Masterclasses are so important. It also brings an awareness of some of the global challenges we are facing around health and wellbeing in the life sciences field including the need for new medicines, faster diagnostics, better management of long-term illnesses, and sustainable production of equipment and medicines. We are in a great position now, through the Graduate Employability Masterclasses, to not only train the next generation of scientist but to inspire them to become innovators and entrepreneurs and add value to this exciting and growing industry in Scotland. By inspiring students with stories of invention and innovation, and providing them with the connections and training required to kickstart their careers, we can help drive the Life Sciences sector in Scotland forward into a thriving yet sustainable and circular economy.

This year universities will deliver 5 life sciences masterclasses through SULSA and 2 chemical sciences masterclasses through ScotCHEM. The programme is supported by Skills Development Scotland and Life Sciences in Scotland.

Ally Hughes PhD, Project Coordinator at SULSA

SULSA are part of the skills panel at the annual Life Sciences conference, find out more here.

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