Sheffield Uni’s National Technician Development Centre opens

The centre will provide HE institutions with access to information, expertise and tools to help create a sustainable future for their services

Lord Sainsbury was a special guest at the opening ceremony of Sheffield University’s National Technician Development Centre for Higher Education.

Welcoming him were the President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, Professor Sir Keith Burnett, and the Director of the National Technician Development Centre and Chairman of the Institute of Science and Technology (IST), Terry Croft.

The National Technician Development Centre for Higher Education was set up following an investment of £1.125 million, including £546,000 from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and funding from the University of Sheffield and other partners of more than £580,000.

The centre will work with partners in higher education and related institutions to “provide a national framework for standardised job titles, grading and career pathways across the technical workforce”. These include plans to increase the number of apprentices working in the sector, “ensuring the workforce of the future is fully equipped to meet the needs of higher education institutions”.

On opening the centre, Lord Sainsbury spoke of the importance of developing the technical workforce: “I believe the work that the National Technician Development Centre is doing is of national importance.

“It is also a real breakthrough that HEFCE has committed serious funding, alongside the University of Sheffield and other partners, to enable the National Technician Development Centre to expand the support it offers to higher education institutions around the country”.

‘The expertise of the team at the new national centre is available to universities across the UK and covers a number of strategic issues around restructuring technical services, business continuity, succession planning, recruitment and other related areas.’

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, President of the Science Council and the President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, has been a long-term advocate for technical education through his work with HEaTED (Higher Education and Technicians Educational Development) and the Science Council. He said: “As a scientist, I am only too aware that from the most delicate medical experiment to the great Hadron Collider at CERN and the grand fusion project at Culham, science often relies on the most skilled technicians. Yet these vital individuals do not come from nowhere.

“They need support to develop their careers and the recognition that will motivate the most able young people to flourish in their work. The National Technician Development Centre will offer exactly that.’

It’s claimed that the work of highly skilled professional technicians can often be overlooked by the Higher Education sector, and the challenges of recruitment are widely known. Research by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation suggests that the UK needs 700,000 more technicians by 2020.

The expertise of the team at the new national centre is available to universities across the UK and covers a number of strategic issues around restructuring technical services, business continuity, succession planning, recruitment and other related areas. This includes the Higher Education Institutions’ Technical Resources Toolkit, available to aid universities in understanding their technical staff and improving the sustainability of their technical services.

Lord Sainsbury also visited the University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), which carries out world-leading research into advanced machining, manufacturing and materials and has more than 100 industrial partners, ranging from global giants like Boeing, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and Airbus to small companies.

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