Young white man with dark hair, in a lab coat with a pipette, smiling at the camera

Employer Champion case study: University of Sheffield

By Internal Communications at the University of Sheffield

Here at the University of Sheffield we are leading a scheme to tackle a black hole in universities’ technical expertise.

Since our Technical Development and Modernisation project successfully secured £400,000 from the Higher Education Funding Council for England to pioneer career pathways for technicians, we have continued to support the sector in a variety of projects and initiatives concerning the professional technical community working in higher education, including becoming an Employer Champion with the Science Council.

One key success has been the development of The Technical Resources Toolkit, which helps higher education institutions address the major problems associated with sustaining a highly skilled, flexible and agile technical workforce.

Technicians have always been vital to the very best research and teaching in universities. In Sheffield, our scientific technicians have worked on the Hadron Collider in CERN and they are partners in addressing the great medical and environmental challenges of our time.

However, the challenges facing the technical community are widely known. Research by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation found the UK must educate another 700,000 technicians across all sectors by 2020 to address a massive skills shortage.

Stories from technicians

To support the national campaign Technicians Make It Happen, showcasing how technicians are vital to society, we asked our 700 University technicians to tell us how they make things happen. Some of the stories we received were nominations from other colleagues inspired by the technicians they work with.

From cutting-edge laboratories to a safe and welcoming campus, technicians work at the heart of departments across the University. With a broad range of expertise, they are the driving force behind many important academic and professional achievements.

One story we received was from Llywelyn Lee, Trainee Technician in the neuroscience research lab, Department of Psychology:

“My role involves supporting research by carrying out and assisting various experiments and also managing the lab equipment and supplies. I enable the researchers in my lab to carry out essential studies into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“As part of my job I also get to be involved in public outreach events, showing people the work we do in our lab and getting them involved in science.

“Sometimes through my work I get to meet some exciting people; for example, at an IST technician’s conference in September 2016 I met Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut to go into space. As exciting as that was,

“the part of my job that gives me the most satisfaction is getting involved in research and contributing to science that could help in finding cures for neurodegenerative diseases.”

Read more stories from technicians and find out more about the Technical Development and Modernisation project on the University of Sheffield website.