Apprenticeships upskilling pioneering SME Replimune

Replimune, an innovative clinical-stage biotechnology company developing next-generation oncolytic immunotherapies, is one of the companies benefitting from the Advanced Therapies Apprenticeship Community. Their employment of two apprentices at different levels shows how apprenticeships can be used to bring new talent into an organisation and upskill existing staff. For an SME like Replimune, these apprenticeships provide a unique way to fulfil specific skills requirements, through structured training programmes and blended learning opportunities.

Bringing fresh enthusiasm and skills
Replimune were one of the first companies to join the community, taking on Emily Bird as a Level 5 Technician Scientist in September 2018. Emily joined the pioneering research team at Replimune’s UK site in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, and is now working towards a Foundation degree qualification in Applied Biological Sciences (with Advanced Therapies) with the University of Kent.

I chose to enrol onto the apprenticeship scheme to take a ‘hands on’ route into higher education and obtain vital work experience required to pursue a career in the exciting field of advanced therapies. Replimune have provided me with on the job training tailored to my role and the opportunity to work closely with, and learn from, experienced professionals with a range of knowledge. Whilst my academic studies provide me with necessary background knowledge, my time spent ‘on the job’ has dramatically improved my practical lab skills and general employability. ATAC also provides invaluable networking opportunities, allowing me to regularly meet with not only other apprentices in similar positions but also various employers and academics at different facilities.

Emily Bird, Apprentice Technician Scientist, Replimune

By employing apprentices, staff also gain valuable line-management and leadership experience, collaborating to help shape the learning and development of the next generation of innovators in the ATMP industry.

Professional development for existing staff
Advanced therapies apprenticeships are also available to upskill existing staff. Neil Metson, UK Facilities Manager at Replimune, is undertaking the Level 7 Senior Leader apprenticeship, a programme designed to build on the strategic and governance skills of managers in the advanced therapies industry. On successful completion of the programme, dependent on workplace knowledge, skills and behaviours, apprentices are awarded an MBA qualification from the Open University and can apply for Chartered Manager status through the Chartered Management Institute.

The key skills obtained from the Level 7 Senior Leader apprenticeship are particularly relevant to my current role and offer considerable benefits to aid in continuous improvement at Replimune. The apprenticeship programme offers an opportunity to learn about ‘global’ contexts, adding an appreciation of how other organisations operate. The ATAC network offers opportunities to develop networking techniques, improve interpersonal skills and grants access to other companies, people and ideas in the sector through cohort activities. ATAC also provides valuable support throughout what is a demanding but hugely beneficial programme.

Neil Metson, Facilities Manager, Replimune

Incentives for business
As a non-levy paying organisation, Replimune pay 5% of the cost of the training and assessment of the apprenticeships. The remaining cost is funded by Government co-investment, an initiative which intends to improve the quality and quantity of apprenticeships in the UK.

As part of ATAC, Replimune have joined a community of apprentices, training providers and companies both large and small, and have access to specialist support throughout the process including recruitment, on-boarding and complementary training activities.

Addressing skills shortages
Moving forward, Replimune intends to take on more apprentices in key technical roles where skills shortages have been identified. They will also look at upskilling existing staff in strategy and leadership roles with the range of ATAC apprenticeship programmes now on offer.

With employment in the UK ATMP industry expected to double over the next five years, advanced therapies apprenticeships offer a vital source of skills to support this unprecedented growth.

Replimune is a rapidly growing organisation at the forefront of cancer immunotherapy. Apprenticeships offer an opportunity to help develop, recruit and train all levels of staff and to give them the tools to succeed in a rapidly changing industry. As the growth of Replimune accelerates, the Advanced Therapies Apprenticeship Community will have an increasing importance across all levels of our organisation, helping to recruit junior staff and provide them with transferable skills and high quality training, through to training more senior staff to help them progress in the organisation – without losing their day-to-day contribution to the growth of Replimune.

Robert Coffin, President and Chief Research & Development Officer, Replimune