Pharma Millennials: Have you considered a career in pharma?

Do you see the potential in a career in pharma? We asked our experts for advice on how they attract the best talent and what they’re looking for.

Have you considered a career in the pharmaceutical industry? According to the ABPI, pharmaceutical companies in the UK currently employ around 73,000 people and this number continues to grow.

Whether you’ve always wanted to work in pharma, or it’s just popped onto your radar, a career in pharma is one with a clear career framework, numerous opportunities to use countless skills in numerous roles, the support to succeed, and with patients’ health at the heart of everything. But with fierce competition among graduates, where’s the best place to start?

Looking to advance your career in pharma? Take a look at our latest roles.

Caroline Wilcher, Director of Recruitment and Talent Acquisition at Ashfield, part of UDG Healthcare plc 

When I graduated 25 years ago, I knew I wanted to be a pharma rep.

At the time, my tutors were mystified as to why I would want a career in sales and tried to push me into research and development (R&D), which at that time was a very viable option where many companies were investing heavily. Nevertheless, I was determined to follow my own path.

Now, R&D roles are few and far between, but sales roles still have a negative stigma within the academic world. Sadly, there is still very little awareness of the incredible career paths that this route can offer.

In my opinion, the industry needs to work harder to communicate effectively with universities and spot future talent – we need to build relationships and support their requirements.

We spend a lot of time liaising with employability managers and graduates across the country and have our very own graduate ambassadors attending workshops and seminars.

Combining a passion for science with great influencing skills and business acumen isn’t easy – but for the right kind of person, I couldn’t recommend a career in pharma sales more.

Andrew Croydon, Head of Education and Academic Liaison, The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI)  

The ABPI is always encouraging more young people to consider a career in an industry pushing back the boundaries of science.

We provide interactive materials aimed at students and their careers advisers, take part in outreach programmes and support specific careers events at schools, colleges and universities.

Our industry has a lot to offer, but we know there are major skills gaps that need to be addressed if the UK is to be ready to research and develop the medicines and vaccines of the future.

In our most recent skills report, we identified gaps in areas such as maths, bioinformatics, statistics, data and informatics, computational skills, and translational medicine or clinical pharmacology. All these areas need addressing for the industry to thrive.

We know that young people are showing an interest, however, and are actively pursuing a career in the pharmaceutical industry. University careers advisers tell us that young people are expressing an interest in regulatory affairs, promotion of medicines and, overwhelmingly, R&D graduate jobs.

When we surveyed our member companies, we noted global pharmaceutical companies in the UK are turning to apprenticeships to ensure a steady stream of highly-skilled workers.

Apprenticeships are increasingly being seen as a viable alternative to a more traditional academic career entry route – which is positive – but, they aren’t the only solution to bridging the skills gaps.

“If our industry is to recruit the talented individuals we need, we need to get even better at demonstrating the globally competitive benefits of working in the industry”

If our industry is to recruit the talented individuals we need, we need to get even better at demonstrating the globally competitive benefits of working in the industry, the diversity of roles and continually evolving career paths, while explaining how potential employees will be at the cutting-edge of science, helping create the next generation of medicines for patients around the world.

Joanna Paish, Associate Management Consultant at Apodi Ltd  

An acknowledged skills shortage in young people with science qualifications led to a new Sector Deal for Life Sciences being announced by the Government late last year. The perception of top pharmaceutical companies is improving year-on-year according to the 2017 Reputation Institute Report, however, opportunities in pharma are not always well known by young people, despite the industry offering competitive packages and excellent career prospects.

At Apodi, we think it is great to hear about new initiatives within the industry that provide graduate programmes, apprenticeships, internships and other training initiatives that will facilitate opportunities to enter the industry in the future.

Tamsyn Elahi, Global Talent Attraction & Resourcing Partner – Rx & Corporate, Roche

When considering a career in the pharmaceutical industry, we are seeing more emphasis being placed on ‘we want to make a difference’ from young people.  It is therefore important that as an industry we plant the seed early about the opportunities available, at a time when they are making important education and career choices. There is however a common misconception that all roles in the industry are scientific and we are keen to reiterate that you don’t need to be a scientist to work in science, take me for example!

“You don’t need to be a scientist to work in science”

For the more specialist graduate jobs within Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, (STEM) we have STEM ambassadors and other interested colleagues that visit schools and universities to raise awareness of the industry and the endless opportunities it can offer.

At Roche we offer work experience and hold events such as Generation Next where we invite young people onsite to learn about what we do and career prospects. We believe it’s important to invest in our future leaders.