Translating the achievements of Australia’s flourishing medical research sector into better outcomes for patients relies on expanding clinical trials across the country. And this requires a highly trained workforce to meet the increased demand.
The SKILLED Clinical Trials Internship Program was established in 2019 to address a skilled workforce shortage in the sector, namely Clinical Trial Assistants (CTA) and Study Coordinators (SCs). This shortage has been exacerbated by the impacts of COVID-19 including increased and more complex trial activity, reallocation of resources, and a lack of international expertise to support the sector.
Developed by the VCCC Alliance in partnership with the Parkville Cancer Clinical Trials Unit (PCCTU), the program trains PhD, Masters and Honours-level scientists as CTAs and SCs. It aims to strengthen the clinical trials sector by introducing science-trained graduates into the workforce.
The program has experienced high levels of satisfaction, with 100 per cent of interns and host sites reporting they were satisfied or very satisfied with the program.
This is a testament to the strong leadership from the chair of the SKILLED steering group Marian Lieschke (Manager, PCCTU) on this initiative along with VCCC Alliance SKILLED program staff.
The 40-week program places graduate scientist interns into clinical trial environments at host sites, giving interns access to practical, hands-on training, supported by theory-based learning. Using their research skills, interns identify and implement a quality or efficiency improvement project at their site. The program is making a meaningful contribution to reducing disparities in cancer outcomes.
The SKILLED Clinical Trials Internship Program was acknowledged with the ARCS 2022 Innovation Award (Organisation). As the first and only initiative of its kind in Australia, the program has generated significant national and international interest and is inundated with applications each year.
After four years, the program is now poised for expansion across state borders.
Australia is known globally as a leading clinical trials destination due to our high-quality healthcare system, advanced scientific research and multicultural population, and this has only been enhanced during the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent years, the sector has grown rapidly and has the potential to become one of the country’s most important and valuable service exports.