VCCC’s SKILLED Internship Program Builds Clinical Trial Talent Pipeline

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21 August 2020

Pictured (L-R): MTPConnect Director Communications & Events Caroline Duell, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) Executive Director Professor Grant McArthur and Head, Education and Training Development Michelle Barrett, and MTPConnect Managing Director & CEO Dr Dan Grant in the MTPConnect virtual podcast studio.

This week, the MTPConnect podcast explores how the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) is building a future workforce through internships to support the growth of clinical trials in cancer research as part of our REDI initiative.

The VCCC’s Executive Director Professor Grant McArthur and the Head, Education and Training Development Michelle Barrett, discussed how their successful SKILLED clinical trial internships pilot program is being expanded to provide a pathway for scientists to build role-specific clinical trial knowledge, experience and skills in a clinical trials unit through theoretical and on-the-job training. 

Professor McArthur says “now is the time” to launch into a career in clinical trial research. 

“When one thinks about the history of medical research and this has been so well exemplified in cancer research, we are now poised to take a lot of very fundamental knowledge about disease and develop interventions to improve outcomes for patients,” Prof McArthur explains. 

“So, with the development of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRRF) and expansion in investigator-led clinical trials, with industry investment in new medicines and this is an area that is going to grow and continue to expand. 

“This is a great time to be thinking about moving your career into clinical trials.” 

Ms Barrett says the pace of cancer research is driving up the demand for highly skilled Clinical Trial Assistants (CTAs) and Study Co-ordinators, which is creating employment and career opportunities. 

She admits that starting a career in clinical trials research can be a “hard and competitive environment”, however there are also many benefits. 

“We are trying to create a pipeline of highly skilled and highly intelligent individuals that can come into the sector and really look at it from a different perspective and contribute going forward,” she says. 

“I’m a science graduate myself, I would absolutely endorse Grant’s comments and say that clinical trials is the job for you.”

Professor McArthur says it’s important to develop and retain these clinical trials skills in Australia. 

“We need statisticians that are highly skilled that have experience and knowledge in the particular area, as there are different statistical skills that get applied to different areas of medical research to clinical trials,” Prof McArthur admits.

“I think we have a well-trained scientific workforce to fulfill those roles, but to actually keep up with the demand that has been generated I think is important. 

“We want those activities to happen in Australia, so why not have that capability here? 

“Basically [we should be] a one-stop-shop for clinical trials, where all the elements of clinical trials can be undertaken here in Australia.” 

The VCCC is a partner in MTPConnect’s REDI program, a $32 million initiative of the MRFF which is driving skills development to ensure Australia has an industry-ready MTP workforce that can keep pace with a rapidly changing sector.

Check out the full 30-minute podcast interview here.