Any description of 2020 is now probably a bit clichéd, but it’s been unusual to say the least. I’m proud to see how technical staff have continued to make valuable contributions to the work of the University throughout the year, whether it be continuing provision of essential services through lockdown; manufacturing PPE for healthcare settings in the region; getting labs back up and running again; or preparing new teaching resources for an academic year like no other. You’ll be able to see some of these contributions highlighted in a video piece coming out shortly so keep your eyes peeled!
Technicians across the country have also played an essential role in our response to the pandemic, and this report from the Technician Commitment highlights this contribution and examines the impact of COVID-19 on the technical community in higher education and research.
We’ve also had the opportunity to promote the contribution of technicians within the GW4 Alliance in this opinion piece.
Earlier in the year GW4 announced two funding opportunities to support the career development of technical staff. It’s really exciting to see GW4 now launching GW4WARD, a brand new initiative specifically aimed at supporting the professional development of technical staff working at the four Universities. One of the aims of our Technician Commitment action plan was to leverage our local relationships with other institutions to the benefit of technical staff. To see so much progress already is encouraging, and I look forward to seeing how this initiative develops.
Already, GW4WARD has resulted in the Technical Staff Professional Registration Scheme being run for a second time, so do make the most of this opportunity. Applications close on 27 October at 12pm.
Obviously the turmoil of this year has caused huge disruption and as a result we’ve not made the progress we expected towards our Technician Commitment action plan. However, despite this, in addition to the good news from GW4 there are a few things I can update you on.
A large piece of work in our action plan was one around standardising our job descriptions and carrying out a skills audit of our workforce. This will have a huge positive effect on the technical teams, giving individuals confidence in what their role involves and supporting them in their professional development. It also enables managers to better plan for the future, ensure consistency and fairness, and improve our recruitment processes.
Colleagues in HR and Staff Development have been instrumental in moving this along, and before lockdown were almost ready to start trialling a skills audit in some departments. We hope to pick up on this project again soon.
Visibility is one of the four key strands of the Technician Commitment, and often acknowledgement of the contribution of technical staff in published research is at best inconsistent. Technicians need to be acknowledged to be valued and their work understood. We’re currently working on publishing clear guidance for researchers explaining how to appropriately acknowledge the contribution of technical teams and individual technicians in publications.
Earlier in the year, colleagues from HR held a number of workshops with Technical Supervisors and Managers. These looked at improving our recruitment processes, from advert wording to interview procedures and use of social media to promote our roles. This month we trialled our first video adverts for some roles in Engineering, which help our vacancies to stand out on social media, and give potential applicants a better feel for what the role is like.