The U.K.’s Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (CGTC) announced a new series of practical courses aimed at upskilling employees to work in gene and cell therapy (CGT) as well as vaccine manufacturing. The courses are part of a wider suite of programs, supported by £4.7 million of Vaccine Task Force funding, to meet growing demand from the advanced therapies and vaccine manufacturing sector, according to Matthew Durdy, CGTC CEO.

The CGTC projects that workforce in advanced therapies will increase from 3,000 in 2019 to over 6,000 in 2024.

“The CGT industry is not as long established as, for example, the financial services are, and so we are working with the industry to ask what they want, and then to facilitate that,” says Durdy, who explains that the new courses form part of the Advanced Therapies Skill Training Network, with on-the-ground training centers (including the National Horizon Centre in Darlington, and contract manufacturer RoslinCT, which will deliver the training together with the Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance (SULSA) and other academic institutions in Scotland), and a platform for online training.

The novel in-person courses cover topics such as cleanroom gowning and behavior, aseptic processing, and microbiology and environmental monitoring. The online training platform, meanwhile, aims to make training visible and accessible to potential and current employees.

Among the available online content, the CGTC is developing an AI-based tool that gives career advice by analyzing people’s CVs, identifying transferrable skills, and mapping those into recommended roles.

“We are trying to reach out to parts of U.K. manufacturing or other relevant sectors that are in decline, where there are high levels of skills, to target those people and retrain them into the growing cell and gene therapy or vaccine manufacturing industry,” Durdy says.

Furthermore, the CGTC is working with virtual reality providers to develop virtual cleanroom training programs that can lower the cost of training and accelerate timeframes by when workforce can be operational.

“These are all accessible through the [online] platform and independently as well. They are fantastically real, and you can create lots of different training situations,” adds Durdy.

The new in-person training will kick off on June 21st with a course at the National Horizons Centre (dependent on COVID-19 restrictions). It will continue indefinitely, based on funding and industry need.