Vice-Chancellor welcomes new standards for technicians
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Keith Burnett, has welcomed plans that, for the first time, recognise the professional standards of technicians working in higher education.
The standards scheme was launched at the recent inaugural National Association of Professional and Technical Specialists in Education and Institute of Science and Technology Conference on the Future of Technical Support in Higher Education held in the Richard Roberts Building.
Professor Burnett said: “The future vitality of higher education in the UK will depend on the creative abilities of our technical staff. They are the people at the cutting edge of the research and teaching that drive so much of the innovation we need. They are often the unsung heroes of the advances in science, engineering and medicine. There are few things more important to us than ensuring this talent is properly nurtured and sustained by our universities and colleges.”
The University, working in partnership with The Institute of Science and Technology (IST) and the Science Council, has been seeking to help secure futures and create new career opportunities for technicians working in the sector.
The new standards mean, that for the first time, technicians – who are essential to both high quality teaching and world leading research carried out at our University and others across the UK – will be recognised with a professional membership, qualifications, and continuing professional development.
Following decades with no formal structures and declining numbers taking up roles in the technical community, the creation of new professional standards and a Technicians Register will help secure the future of the UK’s multi-billion pound research and development industry for years to come.
Workers will be able to become “Registered Science Technicians” (RSciTech) with the Science Council before progressing to “Registered Scientists” (RSci), awarded through a licensed professional body, while continuing their professional development and learning new skills.
Chairman of the IST and the University’s Director of Technical Development and Modernisation, Mr Terry Croft, said: “The Science Council’s new registers have given us the opportunity to formally recognise highly motivated, highly qualified and professional technical support staff in the HE sector which has been neglected for the last 20 years. It is about providing appropriate quality training and development for technical staff. I have been saying for years that we need this; the lack of professional recognition is stopping people from coming into the sector, particularly graduates. People aren’t aware careers like this are available. I have been working hard to ensure that the technician’s voice has been heard.”
Technicians can gain membership and work towards professional qualifications, have defined standards, codes of conduct and ongoing development. The University and IST are answering the calls of the Government and blazing the trail in the HE sector with assessment panels already in place.
Alongside the Register, a Professional Technicians Programme has been launched at the University incorporating three new schemes, starting with two year apprenticeships for young and jobless Sheffield residents which will include a BTEC in science as well as invaluable experience, a trainee technician course and ultimately a graduate technician programme.
Scientists and technicians from the University have been essential to the ATLAS project and work at the Large Hadron Collider in CERN in Switzerland which is thought to have found the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle, which marks a significant breakthrough in our understanding of the fundamental laws that govern the universe.
The new standards for technicians working across higher education were launched by the University of Sheffield on the same day as it was announced that the elusive Higgs boson may have been found.
Ali Orr, Registrar of the Science Council, said: “Recognition for the vital contribution made by technical staff in higher education to the quality of scientific teaching and research in the UK is long overdue. We are delighted that the Science Council’s new professional registers will provide that recognition as well as providing viable opportunities for career development and progression. As the registers help to make technical roles more attractive, it is essential that we also have in place appropriate routes into these careers and the University of Sheffield’s Professional Technician Programme represents a valuable development in this area.”
Details of the standards for – and benefits of – registration, together with information on how employers and individual technicians can sign up for professional recognition, can be found here