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Call for views and evidence on technician talent for the future

A Call for views and evidence is now open (Wednesday, 24th February 2021) for a policy commission focused on the future technical community needed to deliver UK R&D uplift and more.

The UK’s first policy commission investigating the national shortage and skills gaps in the higher education technical community is opening a call for views and evidence from the sector which will help shape a national set of recommendations to address the gaps. 

Higher education and research technicians, who often work tirelessly behind the scenes, to ensure that the highest possible quality of teaching and research can be delivered, are pivotal to achieving the Government’s aspirations to increase investment in Research and Development (R&D).

On 15th February 2021, The Royal Society announced that without additional action, data suggests the country will not have enough technicians to deliver the uplift required.

The vital role of technicians in academic teaching and research has never been more in the national consciousness, and technicians are playing a crucial role in supporting world-leading COVID research being undertaken by universities. This research is helping the UK fight the coronavirus, and in the longer term, enabling pioneering research and development to support the recovery of the UK economy and underpinning the country’s R&D investment aspirations and to becoming a ‘Science Superpower’.

The TALENT Policy Commission, established in 2020, is investigating the sector’s future need for technical talent, exploring government policy implications and the impact of increasing focus on collaboration with industry, before compiling a range of recommendations for the sector which it will publish in a national report that will provide new understanding on the UK’s technical skills needs of the future. 

Professor Sir John Holman, Chair of the TALENT Policy Commission, said: “The findings of the Royal Society’s report are timely and bring to the fore the issues that the Policy Commission has identified as needing to be addressed nationally. That is why the timing of this, the UK’s first technician focused policy commission, is so important.

“We welcome submissions of views and evidence from a wide range of respondents including organisations in higher education and research which employ technicians including from the private, public and non-profit sectors; organisations that work with, or represent current or future technicians; individuals who are or were previously technicians; and other informal groups”.

The deadline for organisations and individuals submitting views and evidence is Friday, 23rd April 2021. Further details about the specific areas which the commission is seeking evidence is outlined on: https://www.mitalent.ac.uk/Call-for-Views-and-Evidence. Views and evidence can also be submitted via this link.

The commission is gathering evidence from a range of sources and stakeholders. As well as being invited to submit evidence through the call for views and evidence, earlier this month, technicians were invited to complete a once in a generation survey so the commission could directly hear from them about their experiences and to better understand their needs.

The survey, which remains open to technical colleagues to complete until 28th February, will help the commission build sector knowledge and understanding of the technical workforce across higher education and research, and providing strategic insight into the future skills and careers needs of the UK technical community.

The commission includes representatives of the technical community, two University Vice-Chancellors, alongside representatives of UKRI, the Wellcome Trust and Dr Helen Pain, Chair of the Science Council, and Acting Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

The policy commission is part of the £4.99M TALENT programme, a UK-wide project led by Midlands Innovation (MI) to advance recognition and opportunity for the technical community in higher education and research. TALENT is underpinned by a grant of more than £3M from the Research England Development Fund. The remainder of the funding is being provided by the Midlands Innovation consortium university members as well as key partners including; the Science Council, Technician Commitment, Wellcome Trust, British Geological Survey, Rolls Royce plc, Unilever and Midlands Engine.

As well as the national policy commission, the programme is developing innovative ways to deliver culture change to strengthen technical career opportunities, and a technical training programme which will include funding for technicians across the MI partnership to access staff development and training to address specific skills gaps.

Kelly Vere MBE Director of Technical Skills and Strategy, at the University of Nottingham and Co-Lead for the Midlands Innovation technician TALENT Programme, said: “I’m delighted that the Policy Commission is gathering pace.

“With both the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation and the CEO of UKRI recently highlighting the integral role of technicians as part of the looking at ways of recognising the whole team of people that collaboratively undertake research, the findings of the UK’s first technician policy commission, as well as the outputs of the wider TALENT programme, have the potential to drive real change in the sector for one of our most important assets – our technical community.”