January- New Year, New Me and all that. You may have signed up to a new fitness regime, embarked upon dry January or indeed chose to continue as you are. Have you thought about “Brand you” however? What makes you the best version of yourself and what can you do to enhance the skills you already have? Are you looking for a promotion in your role? Or maybe a move? Have you considered enrolling in a course to differentiate yourself from the competition or brushed up on your hard skills?

It’s a new year and the market is getting busier, with unemployment rates in Ireland at a 9 year low. Particular growth has been seen in the Pharmaceutical and Biopharmaceutical sector, with 9 of the top 10 companies in the world having presence here.

The sector employs almost 50,000 people and 46% of these are third level graduates. Over the past number of years there has been an increase in the number of STEM courses, which is indicative of our market.

What I am seeing and hearing from hiring managers is that they both like seeing that the person is improving themselves and continuously upskilling in their area, but also they are looking for the entire package- the person with the Masters or Post Graduate qualification in specific areas. Examples being Project Management, Lean Black Belt’s, Biopharma Manufacturing Certificates.

There is a huge choice- Full-time, Part-time, distance learning, online courses etc. It is far easier to upskill now with such flexible options and with different initiatives and competition there are more accessible options from a financial perspective.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS.

When choosing a course, I think it’s important to choose sensibly. The obvious things need to be taken into account like financials, realistic time commitments, location etc. Also have a think about the following:

Pharma Market Trends:

Over the past number of years, pharma companies have started investing in research and development of smaller volume therapies with higher value, often focussing on Biological technologies as opposed to the traditional chemical synthesis.  Bearing this in mind a possible consideration would be to upskill in the area of Biopharma Manufacturing to gain knowledge in the area if you don’t already have so.

What are you interested in?

This in my opinion is the most important piece. If you’re interested in something, you tend to be good at it, and also doing what you love will never feel like work.

Relevance to your role:

While all learning is personal growth, it is good to identify possible skill gaps in your role, which could be bridged by a course. Or indeed if you would like a change in direction. For example a Mechanical Engineer within Maintenance might do a fundamental course in Electrical Systems so there is a base line understanding for Electricals.

Commitment

Can you actually commit to two Saturdays per month or is it unrealistic? There’s no point in signing up if you know you may not get the momentum behind it. There are so many options it’s easy to find something that will fit in with your life. Also, does your employer offer an assistance or allowance towards the cost of the course?

Accreditation

Is the course you’re looking at accredited, or does it need to be?  For example, if you’re looking to get into Continuous Improvement and are looking to do a Black Belt course, it’s important that the course is accredited as the certification is often a requirement in these roles. Also think about the Institutions reputation for that particular field. Some are more reputable than others in particular disciplines. Other examples of accreditation include Chartership with Engineers Ireland or PMP/PRINCE2 Project Management certifications.

WHERE TO LOOK?

All of the major universities and IT’s run both Full time and Part time courses, of which information can be found on their respective websites.

Online Resources:

EDX:

EDX is a multidisciplinary online resource with an enormous choice of flexible courses in many languages and all from highly reputable institutions.

Most of the courses are free, with the option of paying for a verified certificate.

The durations of the courses range from 3 weeks- 12 months, they are open 24/7 so are great if flexibility is required and the levels range from introductory to advance.

There are many Engineering and Science courses available, my top 3 for Engineers in the Pharma industry being:

• Lean Production

• The Principles of Biochemistry

• Introduction to Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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Coursera is another open online course provider linked to some of the most prestigious institutions in the world. Again, there are free and paid course options, across all disciplines and

Top 3 courses:

CAD Design and Digital Manufacturing

Data Science

Systems Biology and Biotechnology

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Other online resources for courses include Lynda, which is a LinkedIn resource and Openlearning.

Classroom Learning:

All of the Universities and IT’s have part time and full time postgraduate options, including Masters and Postgraduate Diplomas, which can be found on their websites. Postgraduate courses in the Dublin Region can be found at the following:

• Dublin City University

• University College Dublin

• Dublin Institute of Technology

• Griffith College Dublin

• Trinity College Dublin


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Practical courses:

In recent years, because of the surge in the market within Biopharma, NIBRT was established by IDA Ireland to serve the training requirements of the biopharmaceutical industry in Ireland. With its pilot-scale biotech manufacturing equipment, the organisation serves as a ‘flight simulator’ for biotech manufacturing. Another such facility is Innopharma Labs, who offer a range of courses, both free and paid. Both of these facilities offer fantastic courses, with a particular focus on upskilling to the Biopharmaceutical industry. Courses can range from day courses to 2 year Masters Programmes. More information found here:

• Innopharma

• NIBRT

So whether it’s a course in Flower Arranging, Advanced Materials or Downstream Processing, now is the time to start thinking of adding value to your skillset while the intentions are high and we are all bright eyed, and bushy-tailed heading into 2018! Stay tuned for tips and tricks within the industry.