FÁS: Working with the Biopharma Industry to Provide the Trained Labour Force they Need




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Video title: FÁS: Working with the Biopharma Industry to Provide the Trained Labour Force they Need
Released on: August 05, 2008. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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This interview focuses on investment opportunities in Ireland. In this interview, Fintan Walton speaks with Valerie Cowman, Manager of the FÁS Biopharma Training Centre near Cork, Ireland. This recently opened facility provides hands-on practical skills on production-scale equipment that is used in manufacturing operations. The facility operates as a mimic manufacturing environment with a range of equipment and can be customised according to the needs of specific manufacturers. As a government not-for-profit agency, FÁS provides training and assists companies looking to settle in Ireland in all areas of recruitment. Working closely with the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) in Dublin and other academic centres around the country, FÁS provides ongoing workforce development to companies after they have come to Ireland. FÁS strives to stay on top of the constantly changing technological needs of biopharma, and to help ensure they do, they have appointed a committee which advises them on the emerging needs of the industry.
Focusing on biopharmaceutical sector
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to the regional report here in Dublin, Ireland. On this show I have Valerie Cowman from FAS the Biopharmaceutical Training Facility in Cork. Welcome to the show.
Valerie Cowman:
Thank you Fintan.
Fintan Walton:
Valerie Cowman, the initiative of FAS to set up a Biopharma Training facility is based on what, what premise?
Valerie Cowman:
Few years around we found that when companies were looking at Ireland as a potential location they had no concern regarding the level of standard of education that could be provided by our academic institutes. We are looking to see whether or not we can provide hands on practical skills in relation to the equipments that they would use in manufacturing environments. We have over 20 training centers across the country doing a whole range of training activities dedicated towards giving people hands on practical skills.
Fintan Walton:
Right. So the biopharma training centre which is based in Cork obviously is focused on the biopharmaceutical sector and in particular the manufacturing side. Tell us about the actual facility, is it you do the training but you also actually have equipment et cetera. So tell us about that particular side?
Valerie Cowman:
The facility itself operates as a mimic manufacturing environment, so it's mimic GMP [ph] environment. We have a range of manufacturing equipment in there it's all production state equipment. So people can get the hands on practical exposure to the types of equipment as you see in industry every day. On the upstream side that would include things like disposable reactor technology, stainless steel reactors on the downstream side we have range of (indiscernable) equipment at different scales so that people get used to actual activities.
FÁS offering training with specific skill sets.
Fintan Walton:
So if I am a company thinking of investing in Ireland I am a pharmaceutical manufacturer looking to invest in Ireland setup of manufacturing facility, how would I, how would I access the Biopharma Training Centre?
Valerie Cowman:
The IDA as a part of its strategy for bring investors and then looking Ireland as the location typically would facilitate companies coming and meeting with the academic institutes in Ireland, training providers in Ireland and when look at what the companies needs are and look at matching them with the relevant people within Ireland itself. As part of that strategy we would often be brought into meet with investors who are coming into Ireland and what we can do for them.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Valerie Cowman:
And (indiscernable) with the other academic institutes and other training providers such as NIBRT to ensure that their full needs are matching that we are meeting their need.
Fintan Walton:
So that, so the important thing here I understand is that, that the biopharma training facility is trains individuals but actually trains them also for specific companies?
Valerie Cowman:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
To those specific skill sets they are looking for?
Valerie Cowman:
Yeah. We can do, we would have a provision of training to those who are looking at up skilling and re skilling on an ongoing basis so that there is a pool of qualified labor there for people to access, as well as that if a company have a specific need then we will relate with the company specifically and develop training specifically for their need.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Valerie Cowman:
And look at what needed when we talk with them and any other trainer that was to use. We are very flexible in terms of usage, we don't dictate that we're doing the people who can train in the building, it can be accessed by other trainers, companies can utilize their own trainers other third level institutes or academic institutes can utilize the both of the trainer so it's very flexible in terms of seeing such.
FÁS aids recruitment and works closely with NIBRT
Fintan Walton:
I mean the other thing to FAS as well is that it's not just only a training but also helps with recruitment?
Valerie Cowman:
Yes. We have.
Fintan Walton:
So companies or company coming into Ireland would be able to access both training and the equipment --? That's right?
Valerie Cowman:
Yes. We have a division that deals specifically with recruitment and we can assist companies in terms of recruiting for their own need and the services for you are charged to companies that are looking to recruit.
Fintan Walton:
Right, right and there are lots of in Ireland one of the things we recognize is that there are a lots of different centers developing for an example, the National Institute for Bioprocessing being recently developed here in Ireland, do you interact with them?
Valerie Cowman:
We work very closely with NIBRT and we support each other's activities.
Fintan Walton:
And NIBRT is?
Valerie Cowman:
NIBRTis the, The National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training, which is.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Valerie Cowman:
Has recently been set up in Ireland, and it's actually building its own facilities in Dublin at present.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Valerie Cowman:
So, and we (indiscernable) very closely with them in terms of delivery of training and in terms of the programs that are actually we operate and that they would operate as well.
FÁS operating as a Nonprofit Organization
Fintan Walton:
Okay. So, one of the other things that we recognize, when we looking at Ireland and certainly when the pharmaceutical industry is looking at Ireland is how do I ensure that as I built my capability within Ireland from the initiation of the manufacturing plant to further scale up how closely do you actually work with those companies to ensure that they, they have the correct you know skill set for developing the businesses here in Ireland?
Valerie Cowman:
We would link in very closely with companies in terms of identifying what their training needs are, how that training need can be provided and ensuring that the capabilities there are to further develop people into the future as their business need changes. In terms of any program that runs we align to further progression parts so that somebody who make come into your business as an operational technician today could potentially build up to Phd in the future if your business need involve towards that.
Fintan Walton:
One of the key things I recognize also is that with the biopharma training facility and FAS in particular one of the key things here is that it is a government agency, and it's not for profit organization. So when it comes to actually training is there other cost issues for companies when they are trying to use the -- use the facilities that you've got?
Valerie Cowman:
Based in a fact that we are not a profit organization, costs really in relation to using the facility in many of the companies.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Valerie Cowman:
We would also run a program for people who are looking at re skilling or up skilling where we bear all the cost. So we will train those people and give in the appropriate skill sets and company can interview them or pre screen them if they wish prior to coming into the program with no, no actual commitment on the company side to employ anybody at the end of the program. So we would really look at working with companies to minimize the cost there. The plans in the future is to ensure that we build on the existing equipment that is available in the facility to ensure that we continue to reflect emerging technologies and to ensure that the people who are currently on our programs and our current skilling themselves as manufacturing technicians or maintenance technicians can further develop them by accessing programs through NIBRT or the academic institutes in Ireland to further up skill themselves and develop the skill sets that may be needed to go into the future for the companies.
Advisory committee serving on company's focus on emerging needs
Fintan Walton:
I mean, one thing for sure around -- about pharmaceutical industry is continually changing particularly at the technological level?
Valerie Cowman:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
So it's really important that for Ireland to be attractive to any investor bringing their manufacturing capabilities to Ireland they'll need to make to ensure that the people here in Ireland have necessary skill sets right at the very forefront of a technology that's developing, so how does FAS do that?
Valerie Cowman:
We will work very closely with industry that is currently located in Ireland in terms of we have an advisory committee that our, an industry sub group and they would advice us in terms of new or emerging technologies that they are utilizing within their own environments and advice us in terms of the programs that we run or where they see the emerging needs are in relation to the business going into the future and we will continue to enhance in the future.
Fintan Walton:
Excellent. Well. Thank you, very much indeed Valerie for coming on the show. Thank you very much indeed.
Valerie Cowman:
Thank you Fintan.
Valerie Cowman
Manager of the FAS Biopharma Training Centre near Cork, Ireland
Valerie Cowman has a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology and for the last 8 years has worked for FAS, the National training and Employment Authority in Ireland mainly involved in upskillling, reskilling and providing training opportunities for people who wish to develop careers in the pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing sectors. She has been directly involved in the development of the National Skills Competence framework for production personnel in the pharmaceutical, chemical and medical device sectors. This allows those in employment to gain accreditation for their workplace learning and facilitates access to further education programmes. She has direct responsibility for the new training facility FAS have recently opened in the Southwest of Ireland to provide skill development opportunities for manufacturing personnel in the biopharmaceutical sector. Companies located in the region include Eli Lilly, Centocor, Amgen, Schering Plough. Prior to this Valerie spent seven years working for LONZA Biologics in the United Kingdom in both Quality Assurance and Quality Control functions.
FAS
FAS enhances the skills and competencies of individuals and enterprises in order for Ireland to further develop as a competitive, inclusive, knowledge-based economy. It strives to do this through the provision of tailored training and employment programmes that suit everyone's needs. With the transformation of the labour market in recent years, FAS continues to adapt to serve the needs of an economy now employing over 2 million people. The establishment of the Biopharma Training Centre is recognition of the importance of the bio-pharmaceutical and medical devices sectors to the Irish economy. Its location in Cork is a reflection of the high concentration of pharmaceutical and biopharma companies in the southern region, with 40 plants in the Cork and Munster area. FAS works closely with local industry and academic institutions to provide quality training to the biopharma sector and to create favorable conditions for these companies to flourish.