In Recruitment Articles

The North East of England is a thriving hub for the pharmaceuticals industry, described as “a jewel in the scientific and industrial crown” by the government. The region accounts for nearly 35% of the UK’s GDP generated by pharmaceuticals, which amounts to £1.8bn. But are we managing our pharmaceutical talent pool effectively in the North East?

Research has shown that as a direct result of the economic downturn, 25% of employees in the pharmaceutical sector are now more loyal to their employer. The views of approximately 134,000 people, including almost 6,000 in the UK, were the basis for the findings, and from the North East respondents, 22% claimed to be more loyal to their employer.

This has led to less movement in an uncertain marketplace. For those who were contemplating moving jobs within the pharmaceutical sector, significant importance was placed on assessing a prospective employer’s reputation. Around 46% of potential employees felt that the quality of a firm’s products and services was most important, strong leadership came in at 28%, and skilled employees at 12%. Least important were global presence, financial performance and corporate social responsibility.

Nigel Wright recently carried out a salary survey, which also explored motivations. From respondents in the pharmaceutical sector we found that being given the opportunity to work on ‘new challenges’ counted for 75% of the influence when changing jobs, increased remuneration was second most influential at 70%, and achieving an improved work-life balance scored 37.5%. Changing location, on the other hand, scored only 12.5%.

But with less people moving around the industry, what about new talent coming in? An important factor to the North East workforce and talent pool is the graduates that add to it every year. Interestingly, on a national level, 75% of university students move away from home to go to university; however, only 16% of these stay in their university region once they graduate, with 47% returning home and 37% moving to a new region all together. The North East has the highest number of graduates who move away to study and the third number of overall graduates studying in the region. This research, from the UK Innovation Research Centre, also found that the North East has the second lowest number of graduates employed by region. Doing the sums, it turns out that there is a net loss of graduates for the region.

This isn’t the same for all sectors. Research done by Newcastle University in 2011 found that 56.1% of their graduates from the Medical Sciences Faculty who were in work were employed in the North East. Further research, this time by The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), found that the number of undergraduate industrial placements has significantly reduced in recent years, from 530 in 2007 to 268 in 2011. This type of work-based learning requires intensive supervision at first, so being able to take on these students has been affected by changes to budgets in recent years.

Industrial placements are an important step in graduates gaining work experience. Training and exposure at this early stage is invaluable to the development and employability of university students, so the decrease in placements offered by pharmaceutical companies is a concern.

There’s no doubt that combined, this situation has ‘dynamic, challenging SME’ all over it, which as a region we have in abundance. Employers need to look to the future and industrial placements will be key to talent development. The North East has ambitious growth plans for the pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors, and it’s vital that we take the necessary steps now to supply the workforce of tomorrow.


Lesley Nixon
Senior Consultant Scientific
Nigel Right Recruitment

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