Sheffield University in partnership with IST launches first national centre for professional technicians in HEIs

The University of Sheffield has launched the UK’s first national centre for university technicians.

nksmallTechnician using an MRI machine for medical research

The National Centre for Technical Development and Modernisation will work to improve efficiency by providing a national framework for standardised job titles, grading and career pathways across the technical workforce. It will also examine and signpost best practice in areas of technical training and development.

The work of highly skilled professional technicians can often be overlooked by the higher education sector, yet the challenges of recruitment are widely known. Research by the Technician Council found the UK must educate another 450,000 technicians across all sectors by 2020 to address a massive skills shortage.

The new National Centre for Technical Development and Modernisation (Efficiency in Higher Education) has evolved from a major HEFCE-funded Catalyst project led by the University of Sheffield. The Catalyst project led work scoping the diverse skills of university technicians in order to gain a stronger understanding of potential skills gaps as research techniques and technologies continue to develop.

The centre will also look at how to communicate the merits of the profession to new graduates, school leavers and those wanting a career change, who may have been previously unaware of the opportunities available. In partnership with the Institute of Science and Technology, the professional body for technical, managerial and specialist staff, it will bring a wealth of expertise and knowledge through one major hub to further support and resolve issues affecting universities across the UK now and in the years to come.

Speaking about the new centre, Terry Croft, Director of Technical Development and Modernisation at the University of Sheffield said:

“A lot of work has taken place to research and promote the key role and contribution the professional technical workforce plays across the UK, but there is still too little understanding of their vital role – both in universities and beyond. This has led to shortages especially in the highly skilled fields of operation.

“The new National Centre for Technical Development and Modernisation will galvanise the higher education sector to publicise the career opportunities available for technicians in the UK – helping universities attract and retain the best talent and develop a workforce that is fit for the research challenges ahead.”

Speaking about the importance of university technicians, Sir Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sheffield, said:

“Technicians have always been vital to the very best research and teaching in universities, and their contribution has been undervalued for too long. In Sheffield, our scientific technicians have worked on the Hadron Collider in CERN and they are true partners in addressing the great medical and environmental challenges of our time. For this reason, I am very proud of our work to support and recognise this vital and skilled group of professionals and to enhance their career development, which is so crucial for our world-leading universities and the UK economy.”

The expertise of the team at the new national centre is available to universities across the UK and also covers a number of strategic issues around business continuity, succession planning, restructuring for the 21st century, technical staff reviews and other related areas.

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