Image credit: Technical staff working in laboratories at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, 2019

Categories: Sanger Life27 July 20203 min read

Impact of The Technician Commitment

The Wellcome Sanger Institute is a proud signatory of the Technician Commitment. We signed up in March 2018 to play our part in valuing, developing and rewarding our highly skilled technical employees, who play a vital role in our organisation’s work.

In this guest post, Kelly Vere, Programme Director of the Technician Commitment explores the progress of the scheme across the UK.

The technical community has been at the forefront of the sector’s response to COVID-19, with many technical colleagues closely involved in the rapid shut down of facilities and campuses. Technicians have also made a huge contribution to the civic response to the pandemic, for example collating, manufacturing and distributing PPE, manufacturing hand sanitiser and enabling and supporting COVID-19 research and the national testing effort. And, as campuses and facilities gradually reopen it is often our technical colleagues who are ensuring a safe return to work, designing new processes and policies to ensure a safe, and socially distanced working environment for all.

The lockdown period has no doubt been challenging for technical colleagues working across research institutes and universities, but it has also presented opportunities. It has thrown technical colleagues, and our activities into the spotlight. The work of our community has never been more vital and the pandemic presents an opportunity to raise visibility and recognition of the crucial contributions we make to our organisations.

The Technician Commitment is an initiative led by a range of sector stakeholder organisations that aims to ensure increased visibility, recognition, career development and sustainability of technical skills, roles and careers in UK higher education and research.  It was founded in 2017 and has rapidly grown to include 92 signatory institutions.

Through the Technician Commitment, many signatory organisations have formed technical communities, both internal and external, that allow technical colleagues to network, share best practice and engage in professional development opportunities. Despite lockdown, these activities are still underway and it was a pleasure to be invited to participate in a recent webinar by the Sanger Institute in May 2020 to speak about the impact of the Technician Commitment to date and to discuss the next phase of our work to ensure status and opportunity for the technical community.

The webinar below gives some background to the Technician Commitment, discusses the work we are seeing in signatory institutions in response to the initiative, and highlights evidence of positive change we’re beginning to see across the sector, such as the increased engagement of professional bodies and learned societies with the technical community, examples of increased formal recognition of technical roles and the development of clearer pathways for technical careers, before highlighting the latest research underway by the Technician Commitment and partners to explore the impact of COVID-19 on the technical community. (Spoiler alert – a report on this is due for publication in August 2020!).

The Technician Commitment has been a truly collaborative endeavour from day one and it was fantastic to be joined by colleagues from across the Research Institute technical consortium (formed in response to the Technician Commitment). We look forward to supporting future events with this community. By continuing to work together we can ensure that technical skills, roles and careers are developed, supported, respected and aspired to.

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