Authors: Ida Amura, Fabienne Pradaux-Caggiano, Dave Wood
On Wednesday the 8th of January, both Science and Engineering and Design technical teams of the University of Bath had the opportunity to attend the HEaTED Regional Network meeting at the University of Exeter. This event represents an opportunity for technicians at any stage of their careers to discuss and share their experiences, knowledge and skills. In particular, the event aims to bring together members of the technical staff from various institutions and increases awareness of career progression opportunities.
The event took place at the Living Systems Institute situated on Streatham Campus at the University of Exeter, a custom-designed building opened in 2016 where 32 research teams of biologists, physicists, engineers and mathematicians are looking at both fundamental knowledge and applications for improving health and treating diseases.
The meeting started with a welcome presentation lead by Dr Lizzy James, Technical Services Business Partner, and Steve Gaze, HEaTED South West Regional Network Coordinator who first introduced Exeter’s technical team in the Technician Commitment framework and then overviewed the work done so far to improve technicians’ visibility, career development opportunities and gain recognition.
After the lunch break, we had the opportunity to enjoy a tour of the campus facilities such as Digital Humanities, Virtual Reality Technologies, Living Systems Institute and the Aquatic Resources Centre (ARC). Among these, we chose to visit the Living System Institute. It was remarkable and we were very impressed by this new building, only 3 years old. It comprises three floors of research labs, providing around 150 bench spaces with dedicated area for equipment, instruments, tissue culture and separate hot and cold rooms; state of the art imaging facilities, a biological service unit and an insectary. The visit of the ARC was also enlightening. It spreads over 14 aquaria rooms, with a wide range of freshwater and marine species and a computer-controlled water treatment plant. Each room is temperature controlled and is dedicated to specific research subjects, from the effect of chemicals in the environment to climate change impact on species or studying neuroscience. It was certainly fascinating.
'The issues and challenges we face tend to be very similar across different institutions, and I was particularly interested to discuss issues relating to student lab working with regional colleagues. The introduction of maker-space student areas in other institutions provided plenty of talking points!' – Dave Wood
The afternoon session was a mix of talks and activities, which aimed to introduce opportunities to gain recognition and ultimately improve career prospects and CPD in the technical services. The three talks 'Make career tracking a habit', 'Professional Registration stories', and 'Recognising your teaching contribution through HEA Fellowship' were engaging and they made everyone reflect about the value of professional development activities, and how to make the most out of it. Ultimately, they were designed to give people the opportunity to brainstorm and reflect on their personal goals and learn how to highlight their technical capabilities.
The afternoon continued with an inspiring talk on 'Amazing Technical Careers' from Suhel Miah, HEaTED programme manager, which focused on what an amazing technical careers mean to us and on the most common feelings amongst fellow technicians. The main words that captured our attention were 'commitment', 'support', 'value' and 'passion'.
The event provided a platform to share knowledge and expertise of the technical team at the University of Exeter. Subjects like their implementation of the chemical inventory and laboratory management software LabCup® or the apprentice scheme were invaluable examples of a proactive and successful University. We also learned about opportunities to progress within a technical career, making the event pleasant and worthwhile attending.