1% of national employment is in the Science sector, equating to around 19,500 employees. Between 2011 and 2016 the average annual growth rate in science occupations declined by 2%, this contrasts with the national annual average employment rate growing by 1.8%. While employment in the sector is not growing as rapidly as other sectors, a small number of skillsets are in especially high demand. This sector is key to the future performance of the economy, as it contains many of Ireland’s most valuable exporting industries, and so the continued supply of adequately skilled employees is crucially important.
Figure 1: Data from National Skills Bulletin, 2017. SOLAS Skills and Labour Market Research Unit
One exception to the negative growth rates is the employment of Chemical, Biological and Physical Scientists, which increased by 5.3%. This rapid growth rate has resulted in shortages of individuals for a variety of skills core to the work of Chemical, Biological and Physical Scientists.
Figure 2: Data from National Skills Bulletin, 2017. SOLAS Skills and Labour Market Research Unit
There is high demand for chemist/analytical scientists and quality control analysts, especially drug safety roles. Employers are primarily seeking experienced candidates and generally the employers facing the most significant skills shortages are in the pharmaceutical, bio-pharma and food innovation industries.
Science employment is concentrated in three economic sectors, with pharma manufacturing being dominant. The second sector is what the Skills Bulletin terms professional, scientific and technical activities, in this case it primarily means Research & Development (R&D) activities. The final sector in which employment is concentrated is Human Health and Social activities.
Following from the National Skills Bulletin, 2017
Key points for Science occupations
- In 2016, there were approximately 19,500 persons employed in the selected science occupations, representing 1% of national employment
- Three quarters of employment was concentrated in three sectors: manufacturing (predominantly pharmaceuticals), professional, scientific and technical activities (mostly scientific R&D) and human health and social activities
- Over two thirds of total employment in the selected occupations was at professional level; the remainder was at technician level
- While the national annual average employment rate grew by 1.8% over the period 2011 to 2016, overall average growth rates for science occupations decreased by 2%; negative growth rates were observed across all science occupations over this period with employment of natural and social scientists declining by 3.4% on average annually
- Over the period 2015 to 2016, overall employment for science occupations decreased by 6.2%; however, employment of chemical, biological & physical scientists increased by 5.3%, above the national growth rate of 2.9%
- 85% of science professionals were aged 25-54; the corresponding share was almost 87% for laboratory technicians
- At 97%, the majority of science professionals had attained third level qualifications; the corresponding share was 73% for laboratory technicians
- Females accounted for a higher share of those employed for laboratory technicians (62%) and chemical, biological and physical scientists, while there was a gender balance for other natural and social scientist
- The vast majority of employed science professionals and technicians worked fulltime (90%) and were Irish-nationals (84%).
Although science occupations account for a small share of overall employment (approximately 1% of national employment), these skills play a critical role in the performance and future growth of the high value added and exporting sectors of the economy, such as pharmaceuticals as well as in food processing. Although shortages have been identified in this area, they are small in number and are in niche areas.
Recruitment of scientists in 2016 was reflected in vacancy data for roles such as chemists (analytical, process, QA), microbiologists and lab technicians. There were 2,500 recent job hires in 2016 for professional scientist roles, all with thirdlevel qualifications. Nonetheless, the high rates of turnover and the lack of employment growth for these occupations suggests that much of the demand is arising due to movements of those already in employment.
In terms of supply, there were almost 4,300 science graduates at level 8 and above in 2015, of which 700 were in biochemistry or chemistry. In addition, there were over 900 science graduates at levels 6 and 7. There were also over 300 third level qualified scientists who were job ready job seekers in April 2017. Over 80 employment permits were issued in 2016, primarily for chemists.
The skills in short supply chiefly related to experienced candidates (e.g. five years or more) and niche scientific areas typically associated with the pharmaceutical, biopharma and food innovation industries. In particular, there was a demand for scientists with experience in compliance, regulatory affairs and new product development. Shortages in relation to the following job titles were identified:
▪ chemists/analytical scientists: (especially product formulation, and analytical development for roles in biopharma)
▪ quality control analysts: including pharma co-vigilance (i.e. drug safety) roles.
In summary, despite a lack of employment growth, these occupations are still in demand with some shortages occurring, albeit small in number.