Follow-up Blog – University of Central Lancashire

Follow-up Blog – University of Central Lancashire

(TLDR = Scroll for useful links at the end of the blog!)


Last week we headed over to Preston to meet with students from the University of Central Lancashire. It was a busy day at a well attended event where we gave advice to students about the job market in science.


Like many events the questions were sometimes similar to each other, the job market continues to be a difficult thing to approach. The reasons are fairly embedded into the culture of our industries, which isn’t perfect and in my experience “presents” it as unapproachable, but once understood you can turn these to your benefit and after a bit of time you’ll hopefully see it as actually a quite an open and welcoming place!


I’ll write about this via FAQ’s which within the answers will detail much of the advice about accessing scientific careers, that we gave to the attendee’s on Tuesday.


  • How can I get an internship?


In addition to the careers service having internships they can connect you to, and also companies advertising these, we recommend doing a similar activity to a regular job search with the added element of keeping the search within a local distance of home, internships can be short term.


See below for details on how to find companies. You will find companies are prepared to consider you however you need to kiss a few frogs here as an estimated ‘good’ level of interest would be 10% to 20%. This may feel low but don’t let that put you off however do play the ‘numbers game’ find your local 10-20 potential companies and make it known you are interested in an internship.


This can be done via email, phone, following on LinkedIn and applications directly, however my favourite alongside email and phone call is a letter through the post or dropped off in person at reception, this might sound old fashioned, but we live in a time of perceived effort which is becoming harder to show, not easier, and the fact you’ve taken the trouble to post something or drop it in person stands out.


  • How do I find companies to apply to?


Fine chemical, pharmaceutical and other companies are very common, more so than most people tend to at first assume. Lets compare the industry to a well loved staple of most of our lives, McDonalds. Roughly speaking the number of McDonalds in the UK bobs around 1,400, compared to 6,500 life science companies in the UK, this industry (scientific one) is employing 280,000 or so people. So, for each McDonalds roughly consider 4 companies are around you.


I wanted to present some statistics for two reasons but the major one is the nature of the calls I get where people feel like a small change means a big change. Put simply it doesn’t. Don’t be put off if you hear about job cuts and please don’t think the market is ‘flooded’ due to a big-pharma laying off 500 people as happened this year. Instead, put it into the context of 282,000 people, that’s several times the size of the British Army 76,000. A 500 person job reduction is 0.1% to 0.2% of the industry headcount and probably within the boundary of statistical margin of error. Same applies to job creation, if ‘big pharma inc’ opens up on your doorstep announcing 5,000 new job tomorrow it’s a 2%-3% change to our overall life chances.


The problem is that you aren’t a direct ‘customer’ of these industries. As above some of the issues are a bit ‘baked in’ to how it works and you just need to figure how the game is played.


Sure, we all ‘use’ their products everything is a chemical and we can all associate Unilever and GSK with things because they make the news, but with the exception of the cosmetics and household products markets you aren’t a direct customer; and even then you can’t purchasing the surfactants, fragrances, stabilisers and such that made the products.


For the vast majority of the life science and chemical industry, I/you are not and will never be a customer. This means they spend precisely £0 marketing their presence to us, and this means revelations like their being 4x as common as McDonalds can be surprising.


I’ve taken a bit of a run-up to this but I want you to appreciate three things about the industry and market as jobseekers. One, it is out there in good numbers. Please don’t feel like you need to bend and break in order to fit into the industry.


Second these companies don’t sit alone, they like to collaborate and congregate and they do so in places like science parks, industrial groups and conferences. They do this partially because they can’t broad-brush advertise and achieve market penetration to everyone in a meaningful way otherwise. If you consider Coca Cola spend $190,000,000 on advertising each year and still market share to Pepsi you can see why it’s often best felt just to sell in-and-amongst each other.


Three, they want to hear from you. You are welcome in these places, nobody is going to have an issue with you rocking up with a CV or heading to a free conference (see list below and dates).


If they (and I at LiCa Scientific) had our way the world would know about them but they don’t and we sit in the ‘well kept secret’ category. As you might conclude, the problem is more ours than yours as a job seeker!


So, where can you find out who the companies are?

UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) is a great resource. Their job is to check that laboratories are working appropriately in line with standards they should be. This is a publicly accessible resource, and contains details of WHO labs are, WHERE they are, WHAT they are doing and issue a certificate. Sound useful? It gets better, in the top right of that certificate is the contact details of a person there who's responsible! (usually the Laboratory Manager who can answer a technical question or two!). See link to the area where you can search geographically:



UK Science Park Association – This website lists science parks by location i.e. North West / East Midlands it then lists resident companies.  




BioNow is a membership organisation for life science companies you can see our cohort on here!




Chemicals Northwest is a membership organisation for fine chemical and pharmaceutical companies and a list of their members is linked here!




Are there other suggestions?


One idea that perhaps isn’t immediately obvious is the various free conferences that happen and give amazing exposure to the industry. The whole idea of these is companies want to be spoken with, they are a soft-sell operation and as much about networking as they are about business. Companies would love to be approached by prospective recruits here. A couple are below but you will also have events locally on science parks which once plugged into (via email lists etc) you can again attend.


https://www.chemicalukexpo.com 15th and 16th May 2024 Birmingham

https://www.lab-innovations.com 30th and 31st October 2024 Birmingham


As with anything please don’t expect any of the above to be a magic ticket but I am a believer that if you try everything at 100%, stay positive and don’t let a ‘no’ get you down... you will get a lot out of it and ultimately you will find the outcomes you want! 


We are available for ad-hoc questions at admin@licasci.com we’ll be happy to read over your CV, pass on interview advice or just take some time for a chat about the job market.


Best wishes!



LiCa Scientific Ltd

Posted by: LiCa Scientific Ltd