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Why pharma roles need overseas workers

Skilled migrants from outside the EU will be needed in key sectors including pharmaceutical

Pharma companies are facing a talent shortage and a foreign recruitment boost is urgently needed to fill gaps. This conclusion follows the Migration Advisory Committee’s review into the shortage of occupations list.

The Migration Advisory Committee has made a number of recommendations, one of which is that professions related to science and scientific research are also added to the shortage list. Restrictions do not apply to the professions noted on the list, however. Jobs that come under the Shortage Occupation List attract a number of benefits, one of which means that job applicants and their families face lower visa fees. There is also no requirement to reach the £35,800 salary threshold otherwise needed for living in the UK after a five year period.

The Migration Advisory Committee has suggested widening the Shortage Occupation List to include jobs in other professions, including nurses, web designers, architects and veterinary professionals. Queue-jumping is another of the recommendations. This would allow workers from countries not included in the European Economic Area to fill posts.

The list is currently made up of 1 per cent of UK professions, but if the Government follows through with the recommendations, this figure would rise to 9 per cent.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, the sector’s trade association, has been involved in the review. It highlighted specific roles that were in demand, including immunology and bioinformatics, in addition to clinical pharmacology. It has stated that the industry is reliant upon a constant supply of scientific skills derived from the global market, as well as UK talent.

The review yielded a number of findings, including the difficulty in recruiting bioinformaticians. The challenges have been further compounded by a cap on the granting of visas for roles ranked as being in the second tier. The Migration Advisory Committee found that 23 per cent of professionals working as bioinformaticians at Cambridge’s Wellcome Sanger Institute are workers from outside the EU.

Andrew Croydon, Director of Skills and Education at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry believes that the UK requires a workforce which is highly skilled to ensure high-quality research is carried out and that the advanced treatments that people need are thus made possible to ensure better outcomes.

He also indicated that in order to create these advanced treatments, scientists are needed to study the body’s immune system and the process of harnessing the power of genetics. Mr Croydon said placing these crucial roles on the occupation list outlining the shortages will assist the sector as it seeks to address the ever-growing shortages.

Meanwhile, the Chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, Professor Alan Manning, indicated that the recommendations were only applicable under the immigration system which is in place at present. It recommends a review of the Shortage Occupation List as the political situation unfolds and the immigration system changes accordingly.

The Government has indicated that following Brexit, workers from the European Union should adhere to the same rules for immigration as those in other parts of the world.

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