Research from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has shown junior level recruitment across life sciences fell during the pandemic while demand for experienced scientists spiked as the sector battled to develop a Covid vaccine.
The data, provided by business intelligence specialist Vacancysoft, revealed that demand for scientists at director level experienced significant growth in 2020, up 13.6 per cent year-on-year, with hiring across all senior-management level positions increasing 17.8 per cent. In comparison, hiring for graduates and entry-level roles suffered the most, falling 60 per cent year-on-year.
Overall, scientific vacancies across life sciences in the UK displayed resilience in 2020, dropping only slightly by 0.2 per cent year-on-year. As with the overall labour market, during the first national lockdown in Q2, vacancy volumes suffered, falling 12.5 per cent compared to the previous quarter. However, since then hiring across life sciences has seen a strong recovery, with hiring levels up 30.8 per cent quarter-on-quarter in Q3 and 19.3 per cent in Q4.
According to the data, vacancies for R&D scientists grew 9.7 per cent year-on-year — the highest out of the top seven roles – which was no doubt driven by the search for a Covid vaccine. Regulatory affairs specialists were the second most in demand positions, up 6.5 per cent compared to 2019, followed by experts in medical affairs (+3.5 per cent year-on-year).
“With the race to produce a Covid vaccine last year, it is no surprise that 2020 saw an uptick in demand for research & development roles and experienced professionals,’ said Ann Swain, CEO of APSCo. “However, the impact on junior level positions is concerning – particularly for an industry that is already facing a skills shortage. It is crucial that the sector continues to invest in its future talent to ensure a sustainable pipeline of skills is available on a more permanent basis. For employers in the sector, tapping into the connections of specialist life sciences recruiters to fill this gap will be hugely valuable.”
With high demand for the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine, it is perhaps no surprise that it is the leading firm for professional hiring in the UK, recording a 33.8 per cent year-on-year rise, and the addition of 182 new vacancies in the first two months of 2021. Covance, on the other hand, felt the sharpest contraction, with hiring dropping 24.4 per cent year-on-year, though it was the second-largest employer for scientific roles in 2020.