Migration Advisory Committee Recommends Laboratory Technicians Included in Shortage Occupation List

The Science Council and Technician Commitment welcome the recommendation of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to include laboratory technicians in the Shortage Occupation List in their review published on 29th September 2020. 

Laboratory technicians are among a number of occupations which should be added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has advised.

The Shortage Occupation List (SOL) lists occupations where employers face a shortage of suitable labour and where it is sensible to fill those shortages with migrant workers. It has recently come under review with a focus on occupations skilled to at least Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 3 and equivalent.

Technicians enable research and innovation and laboratory technicians currently account for 75,200 jobs within the UK.

The current pandemic has highlighted the crucial roles of technicians, as evidenced in our recent collaborative report. Laboratory technicians are of particular importance to delivering laboratory capacity for COVID-19 testing and this was an contributing factor to the decision to recommend the inclusion of laboratory technicians on the SOL.

As explained in the MAC review, employers cited difficulties in recruiting laboratory technicians and described an insufficient supply of adequately skilled UK workers applying for these positions. An ageing technical workforce, as described in industry reports, adds to this issue.

In a joint statement in 2017, the Science Council, Russell Group, Universities UK, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, Wellcome, the Campaign for Science and Engineering, Cancer Research UK and the Institute of Cancer Research said:

“Government’s commitment to technical education is important to address the skills gap in this area and meet the challenges that come with an aging workforce.

Estimates suggest UK industry needs to recruit at least 70,000 new technicians every year to replace those retiring and to fill new positions and demand for STEM technicians is particularly acute. But growing the technical skills pipeline in the UK will take time and we will always need the flexibility to draw on the best technical talent from around the globe. The UK benefits significantly from tapping into new ideas, skills and innovative approaches developed overseas and this is as true in technical skills as it is in research more generally.

It is crucial that the UK’s immigration system supports recruitment from outside the UK to fill technician-level positions – which are vital to supporting research and education and for training the next generation of technical staff in the UK.”

To lead in science and innovation, it is essential for the UK to attract and develop leading technical talent. The Science Council and Technician Commitment welcome the MAC’s recommendation to include laboratory technicians on the SOL.

Find the MAC report here.

Find out more about the Technician Commitment and our commitment to supporting the technical workforce here.