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Looking to the future for our technical community

  • 23 November 2022
  • By Kelly Vere

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 pathwaysresearch 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:

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:

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