Call for Views: Technical Talent of the Future

Call for views and evidence for policy commission focused on 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 today (Wednesday 24 February 2021) 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 the 15 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.

The deadline for organisations and individuals submitting views and evidence is Friday 23 April 2021. Further details about the specific areas which the commission is seeking evidence can be found here. Views and evidence can also be submitted via this link.

In addition, a national survey of technical staff launched to provide technical colleagues across the country with an opportunity to contribute to TALENT’s national Policy Commission. The survey, which remains open to technical colleagues to complete until 7th March, 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.”

Find the Call for Views here (deadline 23rd April 2021).

Find the Technican Survey here (deadline 28th Feb 2021).