Midlands Innovation is a strategic research partnership of eight research intensive universities in the Midlands. Funding was awarded by Research England in 2020 for ‘TALENT’ – a transformation programme to advance status and opportunity for technical skills, roles and careers.
Over the past two months, HEPI has been running a series of blogs with Midlands Innovation championing the role of technicians in higher education and research. In the final post in our series, Kelly Vere, MBE, University Director of Technical Strategy for the University of Nottingham, offers her reflections and shares her vision of the future for the technical community.
The ten-part Midlands Innovation blog series on championing the role of technicians has highlighted that there is reason for celebration. There has been much progress over recent years in improving opportunities for our technical community.
The blogs have addressed some of the biggest challenges in the higher education and research sector around technical career pathways, research culture and how to create a skilled and sustainable workforce, and the series has featured a range of voices including pro-vice chancellors and technicians themselves.
Insights from the Midlands Innovation universities show the benefits of empowering the technical workforce, encouraging leadership, offering equity of opportunity through collaboration, and diversity.
The eight Midlands Innovation partners pledged to implement the employer recommendations within the TALENT Commission report, agreeing in a joint statement to improve working environments for technicians.
We believe that by setting this benchmark collectively for other institutions to follow, we will help influence positive change, such as:
- supporting better outcomes in research and teaching;
- building institutional resilience;
- improving research culture;
- strengthening industry relationships; and
- addressing recruitment challenges.
However, consistency across all organisations and the wider sector engagement will be the real measure of achievement.
Creating a sustainable and skilled workforce
The national TALENT Commission report is a vital resource which provides new strategic insights into the UK’s higher education technical community. It breaks down the demographics of technicians by discipline and highlights the shortfall in skilled technicians for the future.
Technical staff play a vital role in sustainable innovations, engineering, and domestic and international research in science, and they prop up our creative industries. It is therefore critical that the sector responds now.
The report calls for a clear picture of the technical workforce so the sector can create a sustainable workforce to meet demand from emerging sectors and keep up with advances in research and technologies.
Our report suggests mandating the inclusion of technical staff in institutional HESA data collection and broadening career pathways to allow greater movement across sectors and to increase diversity.
A people-powered approach to strengthening the sector
The TALENT Commission sets out a vision for the future of our technical workforce and a blueprint for the sector. We want to see technical skills, roles, and careers recognised, respected, aspired to, supported, and developed. This is a people-powered approach to strengthening institutional offerings and the sector.
We would like to see employers of technicians as well as funders, government and other policymakers, professional bodies, and technicians engaging with the TALENT Commission recommendations. We would also like to see further partnerships between higher education, research institutions, further education, and industry to provide high-quality training and career development for the technical community.
By working collectively and collaboratively, we can continue to ensure technical skills, roles, and careers are afforded the status and opportunities they deserve. We will be a sector that truly values our technical talent.
Explore our blog series on technical talent:
- Helen Turner, ‘Championing the Role of Technicians’, HEPI blog, 21 September 2022.
- Jiteen Ahmed, ‘Just a technician?’ Not any more! Why it’s a great time to be a technician in higher education and research’, HEPI blog, 28 September 2022.
- Sam Kingman, ‘Empowering technicians: our journey’, HEPI blog, 5 October 2022.
- Richard Taylor and Julie Turner, ‘Engineering technical roles fit for the future’, HEPI blog, 12 October 2022.
- Jane Hubble, ‘How universities can step up to support the technical workforce’, HEPI blog, 19 October 2022.
- Trevor McMillian, ‘Delivering the Future: How universities can leverage technical expertise to fuel innovation’, HEPI blog, 26 October 2022.
- Kostas Kollydas and Anne Green, ‘Key Facts and Figures about the Graduate Technical workforce’, HEPI blog, 2 November 2022.
- Sarah Bennett, ‘Research culture from a technical point of view’, HEPI blog, 9 November 2022.
- Gemma Black, ‘How to build resilience in research and teaching’, HEPI blog, 16 November 2022.