From education to employment

Reflections on the first 18 months of the Science Industry Partnership Careers Taskforce​

Cogent Skills’ Careers Manager, Rachel Brickell, reflects on the key lessons learned from the first 18 months of the Science Industry Partnership’s Careers Taskforce.

It’s been an eventful 18 months since the Science Industry Partnership (SIP) launched its Careers Taskforce – a group of early career professionals shaping outreach strategy and supporting a team of SIP Ambassadors with the training, resources and insights they need to reach people interested in science and technology careers.

All outreach activity is done on a voluntary basis for the good of the industry. Taskforce members work for some of the UK’s leading science and technology companies and are all involved because they want to give something back.

Since the end of 2021, when the Taskforce began its work, the world was still feeling the effects of the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and many employers were updating their offer to prospective staff around working patterns, days in the office, and so on.

We’re now half-way through 2023 and while these issues haven’t gone away, virtually all employers now place a much greater emphasis on offering staff flexible or hybrid working. Consequentially, this is something jobseekers are bearing in mind when starting out on their careers (and is just one example of the many things employers, employees and anyone looking to support them must consider when sharing information about potential future careers).

Looking back over an eventful first year and a half, three key lessons have emerged that will help shape and improve how the taskforce seeks to excite people about a career in the sector.

The power of collaboration

Working together is vital for broadening the expertise of those involved in careers outreach, growing the networks of those being engaged about their future careers, sharing best practice and bringing in a more diverse range of perspectives and ideas.

The first 18 months of the taskforce has demonstrated the impact collaboration can have when people unite around a common goal. Much of this has been because, by bringing companies together, taskforce members and ambassadors have been given access to a range of subject matter experts and a wealth of experience across some of the most important companies in their respective industries.

Supporting volunteers

Members of the taskforce and the ambassadors they support engage in outreach work in addition to their day-to-day jobs – therefore, giving them the right training and resources is vital to make the best use of their time and energy.

This includes a new programme where senior leaders in SIP member companies mentor members of the taskforce, which we believe is unique in the industry. Through this, senior leaders build a relationship with early careers professionals through which they can exchange perspectives on all aspects of their professional lives.

Maddie O’Dell – deputy chair of careers taskforce’s, lead on its ambassador experience workstream and Marketing Manager with Pfizer – is currently being mentored by Dr Malcolm Skingle, chair of the SIP and Director of Academic Liaison at GSK.

Maddie said:

“Being mentored by someone like Malcolm – who has such a wealth of experience in the industry – has been a fantastic opportunity. It’s brilliant to be able to ask for advice when considering my personal career journey and around how we can enhance our work through the taskforce.”

Malcolm said:

“Mentoring Maddie has been a really rewarding experience and I believe we’ve both benefitted from exchanging ideas and perspectives about the work of the careers taskforce. Helping attract new talent into the science and technology sector is vital for its future and I’d definitely encourage senior leaders in the industry to consider taking on a mentoring role.”

Choosing the right channel

A great deal of time and effort is put into ensuring our messages are developed and targeted at the right audience – but just as important is finding the right way of reaching people. This is largely connected to where an individual is on their career journey: someone leaving school uses social media in different ways to someone with a degree and some professional experience, for example. As such, using the right channel is essential.

As we look to the future, everyone involved in careers outreach in the SIP is excited about what we can achieve next. As a group, the taskforce is set to go from strength to strength as its members benefit from being mentoring by highly experienced industry leaders, gaining new insights and skills which they can then pass on to other members.

It’s our ambition that, in time, the current leaders of workstreams across the taskforce will become mentors themselves as they progress in their careers, and with that the taskforce will evolve and new leaders will emerge to continue its work.

The taskforce exists almost entirely because of the passion of its members about giving something back to the industry. By helping to attract and develop the next generation of talent – who will bring fresh energy and ideas – we believe it can play a major role in helping the science sector thrive across the UK in the years and decades to come.

By Rachel Brickell, Careers Manager for Cogent Skills

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