The initiative, which will be rolled out across all Higher Education institutions in England, "aims to enhance the excellence and efficiency of the technical workforce by creating a national framework for progression and sharing best practise," says the University.
Apparently at the moment each institution has its own structure, which can leave gaps in training at both a basic and advanced level. Furthermore, UK Higher Education institutions are set to lose between 25-35 per cent of its highly skilled professional technicians in the next three to five years as many reach retirement age, says the announcement.
The new approach will run alongside a professional accreditation scheme for technicians now offered by the Institute of Science and Technology (IST), points out the university. This is designed to prove technicians have the necessary credentials in their field of work.
According to Terry Croft, Director of Technical Development and Modernisation at the University of Sheffield, and also chairman of the IST, "There is a stigma surrounding what a professional technician is which means many people think it's a job rather than a career.
"We want to demonstrate there is a clear career pathway and that if someone is flexible and agile in their thinking and embraces opportunities for training and development, they can have a career for life.
"To give the technical workforce this agility, there's a need in this career pathway to multi-skill them."
The university says the scheme will:
- Create a series of generic classifications for technical jobs that align to a national grading structure.
- Identify typical career pathways and specialisation routes for technical staff so institutions can plan recruitment and training and development.
- Address a gap in training for technical staff at the basic level by creating consistent training and assessment structures which can be used at apprentice and graduate level.
- Train technical staff at an advanced level as senior staff retire with the loss of the skills and knowledge that underpin cutting edge research.
Terry Croft adds:
"There's a need to formalise career pathways in the technical community so we have that framework in place to show we have the quality and ability in this country.
"The University of Sheffield is the leading institution in the scheme and has developed a series of pilot schemes to recruit new blood over the last few years – through apprenticeships, trainee technicians and fast-track graduate technicians.
"The University is pleased to have been granted this HEFCE catalyst bid to work over the next three years for the benefit of the sector as a whole."
See also: Science Council lists UK’s Top 100 practising scientists (the full list includes Terry Croft in the service provider/operational scientist category)