Future Skills Shortage in Med-Tech

In my role as an executive recruiter, I am continually looking forward and planning ahead to support clients with their recruitment and growth strategies. It’s pretty relentless looking constantly to the future but exhilarating too as you enter the great unknown. At Collingwood, my specialism is Medical and Healthcare which plays to my interest and enthusiasm for future technologies, medical advancements, innovative design and materials, and what devices and care are going to look like in the next few years. Keeping abreast of what is happening in the sector has sent me on a challenging personal journey, as my learning and understanding has to constantly evolve with new technologies, changes in regulations, mergers and acquisitions and incredible inventions being introduced to the market on an encouragingly frequent basis. This is all great for ascertaining what the future of the sector could look like but what happens if we continually look forward and don’t assess the now and look back? To be honest, they are not questions I have previously concerned myself with, however after attending a seminar at Med-Tech (Ricoh Arena) by Cogent Skills’ (Sector Skills Council) Joanna Counsell, it was clear that unless we make some changes to how we recruit candidates into the Sciences now, the future pipeline of candidates for Med-Tech in particular, will look very different in years to come. 

Below are some key take-outs from the session which resonated and certainly will provide considerations and consequences if we don’t change the status quo of the future dynamism of this amazing sector.

Growth Market

Med-Tech has seen substantial growth in the sciences over the years, growing rapidly from employing 50,000 in 2010 increasing to 88,000+ in 2014. This sector has seen a 60% growth and equates to a combined turnover of 18billion. Huge investment has been made in London, the South East, the Midlands and Humberside are all viewed as key med-tech areas of the UK.


The Med-Tech sector has a diverse workforce – currently consisting of 27% graduates and 16% apprenticeships. Graduates typically came from a Life Sciences, Bio-Tech, Pharma background and held the Med-Tech Professional roles, whereas the apprentices typically fulfilled more Technical roles.

Maturing Market

In the UK, the average percentage of the working population due to retire in 10-15 years’ time equates to 30%. In Med Tech over 37% are over 50 years old. In order to keep the sector moving and continue the growth trajectory, the industry envisages that by 2025 a further 46,000 – 63,000 individuals need to be qualified to ensure succession planning, minimise the impact of a retiring workforce whilst maintaining the momentum of growth plans in this sector.

More, more, more

In order to move forward, Cogent Skills analysis calculated that in the UK we need to invest in 6,000 Technical apprentices each year for the next 10 years, and 10,000 Professional graduates each year for the next 10 years to sustain demand.

Critical shortages

The Med-Tech industry is already crying out for Control Engineers, Product Design Engineers, Electrical Engineers, Scientists and Technical Sales. There are already signs that Material Scientists are likely to be in high demand in the future so we need to be encouraging the training programmes to start now.

Challenges and Barriers

  • Funding for such training programmes and apprenticeships is unstable.
  • There are cuts in adult skills and Further Education budgets are vulnerable.
  • Availability of provisions.
  • Attractiveness and awareness of STEM subjects.
  • Barriers to SME’s of allocating time to train graduates and apprenticeships.
  • Mentoring and coaching costs allow practical learning opportunities for graduates.
  • Transferability between Public Sector and Private Sector scientific workforces.

In summary, despite the industry being renowned for futuristic methodology and constantly breaking the curve of innovation unless we improve and encourage more individuals to train in the sciences from the outset, we will be facing a huge shortfall of skills within Med-Tech. Organisations equally require ample funding streams to promote training opportunities for these graduates and apprenticeships so they can learn their trade, progress internal and in the long term give back to the industry they initially embraced.

There are some serious numbers to digest in this research data, however simplistically in order to look forward and enjoy the advancements of this sector, the fact remains we need the right qualified people in the industry not just now but more importantly in the pipeline. I’ll definitely be reading Cogent’s latest reports with heightened interest to see if this forewarning has made an impact on what we do now for the future.