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COVID-19 has made online learning a credible source of education

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Bridging the skill gap between industry requirements and the talent pool available in the pharma world is becoming increasingly important. Romola Pinto, who leads the Rubicon Academy team and also heads the HR function at Rubicon Research, speaks about the transformation that pharma education and training is undergoing after the onset of COVID-19 and explains how Rubicon Academy is training, reskilling and upskilling pharma talent to meet the changing demands and emerging needs of the industry, in an interaction with Lakshmipriya Nair

Innovation has become a byword in every field today. How can we apply it to pharmacy education and training?

There is tremendous scope and need for innovation in pharma. However, since human lives are at stake all innovation must be within the regulatory framework. Therefore, training forms a crucial part of any candidate’s career in the industry. However, classroom training cannot be the only way to impart knowledge. Integration of on-the-job training with conceptual learning, whether in the laboratory or outside it, has to be in the context of today’s technology-driven world. Social distancing and remote learning have become the new normal.

Integrating that into our lives can be viewed as a positive reality. At Rubicon Academy, we aim to provide a holistic learning experience with a focus on enabling pharma professionals to improve their job performance and gain skills needed to do different kinds of jobs. Our content will be relevant to a wide range of participants— from fresh graduates to experienced professionals who want to stay updated or make lateral movements to different departments. Innovation, quality and care are the three tenets of our parent company, Rubicon Research. We approach all initiatives keeping these in mind. We pride ourselves on having the right mix of industry experience, academic rigour and intent to make a positive change in the quality of talent available in the pharma space.

What role does Rubicon Academy envisage for itself in the creation of an innovative ecosystem for the life sciences sector in India?

Our role is to encourage and facilitate continual learning and make it an inherent part of a professional’s career. In line with our motto—Learn. Evolve. Succeed.—we aim to enhance knowledge and skills and change the belief that learning ends with formal education. A fundamental gap exists—in fresh graduates and experienced professionals— in their ability to think and apply their knowledge. Our offerings range from webinars to short-term courses that provide opportunities to relearn concepts, understand applicability in different contexts, upskill and reskill. We are aiming to create a breed of professionals who will have access to the latest concepts, be aware of the latest options and be grounded in the reality of daily work. India is transitioning from being a generics producer to a hub for innovative generics, and biological and new drugs. Fostering the talent to support these goals will require disruptive training. This is one of our primary goals.

Why was this time considered apt for the launch of Rubicon Academy? What was the unmet need?

Unprecedented events require extraordinary solutions. There is a gap between the requirements of the role and the talent available. There is also a gap between academia and the industry. This is primarily because of different levels of awareness; the lack of synchronisation between advanced education and industry requirements; rigidity of course content versus ongoing up-gradation and challenges in the industry, and lack of adequate internship programs to help prepare for real-world requirements. We believe the best option to deal with this situation is to train people with potential and provide a platform to encourage homegrown talent.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought us to the brink of a huge transformation. So, what is the strategy shift that is needed in pharmacy training and education?

COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on the way the world operates. Employers have become conservative with manpower expenditure, everyone is rightsizing. The competition for entry-level jobs will get steeper. Candidates who have good subject knowledge, conceptual understanding and know-how to apply this knowledge will always have an edge. COVID-19 has brought about a paradigm shift in the way we view training and education. It has made online learning a credible source of education. However, the true test lies in the implementation of these acquired skills. Most pharmacy courses will continue to require practical exposure, which can be addressed through internships and industry immersion programs. We’re providing a much-needed platform to practice the skills acquired through online training, and enable a deeper understanding of how to convert information into tangible learning.

How is Rubicon Academy prepared to usher this shift to make young pharma professionals future-ready and support India Pharma Inc’s growth story?

Our certification courses emphasise understanding concepts, especially their context and applicability. We also provide internship opportunities that will orient our learners to be ‘future proof’. Our idea is to align course content with the work undertaken in pharma organisations and create awareness of Standard Operating Procedures, industry best practices, and various stakeholder departments. We also plan to provide opportunities to develop cross-functional skills sets, and soft skills, which are often lacking in professionals.

How do we enable quality assurance through India’s pharmacy education? What would this involve and what are the immediate measures that need to be taken by pharma educational and training institutes in this direction?

Quality is a mindset, it’s about doing the right thing when no one is watching. It is the responsibility of all pharma educational institutes to ensure that building a quality mindset is core to any course they provide. We need to understand how each function and action can affect the quality of a product. The big picture is made up of small actions and that’s what pharma education needs to be able to effectively convey through examples and case studies.

How does Rubicon Academy create training modules, educational programs that are evidence and competency-based, of high quality and meet the needs of all the stakeholders?

Our educational programs are built on a triad of the course curriculum, Subject matter expert/s, and medium of delivery (this could be via live or recorded sessions, lab work, classroom sessions, etc). We aim to encapsulate the clarity of concepts and their practical applicability using real-life experiences. We have access to some of the best talent in the industry. These experts are associated with our parent organisation, Rubicon Research, which started operations in 2000 as India’s first independent product development company.

Through Rubicon Academy, we aim to provide pharma organisations with a steady stream of industry-ready talent. Participants of our training courses will also be offered on-the-job training, internships, and job opportunities at Rubicon Research.

Tell us about the strategies that will be taken at the Rubicon Academy to promote and foster self-assessment and continuous quality improvement of its educational/training modules/programmes.

Our facilitators are industry professionals. They are driven to stay updated with regulatory requirements, futurist trends, etc, and this will reflect in our course content being up-to-date. Periodic content reviews, which incorporate participant feedback and address current and future industry trends, is another strategy. It is our constant endeavour is to provide the steepest learning curve in the pharma skill development space, along with a practical perspective of the industry.

What is the foremost role and responsibility of a pharma teacher/academic in these times of social distancing and online classes to create a productive learning environment?

In these times, the foremost role and responsibility of an academic is to create an engaging learning environment and ignite curiosity in the learners, which is not only event-driven but will lead to greater awareness and not be limited to an accumulation of facts. Though digital interactions are at their peak, there are limitations. This is a good opportunity for everyone to try self-paced learning, using projects and case studies to assimilate this learning.

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1 Comment
  1. Steven says

    Good stuff from the article summarising the most important points. Thanks for sharing

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