£400k scheme to address skills shortage will show being a technician is a ‘career for life’

The University of Sheffield is leading a £400,000 scheme to tackle a blackhole in universities’ technical expertise and train the workforce needed to ensure the country is at the forefront of international research and development.

  • 450,000 technicians needed across all sectors by 2020 to plug a national skills gap
  • 1.5 million new Science, Engineering and Technology jobs will be created across the country in the same period
  • University scheme will create a national career pathway and show being a technician is a job for life

Research by the Technician Council found the UK must educate another 450,000 technicians across all sectors by 2020 to address a massive skills shortage.technician
A new career pathway for technicians is being created.

To tackle this problem, the University of Sheffield has successfully secured £400,000 from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to pioneer career pathways for technicians and bring new blood into the profession. On average, UK Higher Education institutions will lose between 25-35 per cent of its highly skilled professional technicians in the next three to five years as many reach retirement age.

The scheme, which will be rolled out across all Higher Education institutions in England, aims to enhance the excellence and efficiency of the technical workforce by creating a national framework for progression and sharing best practise. At the moment, each institution has its own structure, which can leave gaps in training at both a basic and advanced level.

The initiative will run alongside a professional accreditation scheme for technicians now offered by the Institute of Science and Technology (IST), which proves they have the necessary credentials in their field of work.

We want to demonstrate there is a clear career pathway and that if someone is flexible and agile in their thinking and embraces opportunities for training and development, they can have a career for life.


Terry Croft, Director of Technical Development and Modernisation at the University of Sheffield, also chairman of the IST, said: “There is a stigma surrounding what a professional technician is which means many people think it’s a job rather than a career.

“We want to demonstrate there is a clear career pathway and that if someone is flexible and agile in their thinking and embraces opportunities for training and development, they can have a career for life.

“To give the technical workforce this agility, there’s a need in this career pathway to multi-skill them.”

By working closely with other universities, the scheme will:

  • Create a series of generic classifications for technical jobs that align to a national grading structure.
  • Identify typical career pathways and specialisation routes for technical staff so institutions can plan recruitment and training and development.
  • Address a gap in training for technical staff at the basic level by creating consistent training and assessment structures which can be used at apprentice and graduate level.
  • Train technical staff at an advanced level as senior staff retire with the loss of the skills and knowledge that underpin cutting edge research.

Mr Croft added the scheme would not only benefit Higher Education institutes, but the sector as a whole.

“It also helps UK PLC by showing we can deliver and compete internationally. Research and development brings in billions of pounds to the UK’s economy.

“There’s a need to formalise career pathways in the technical community so we have that framework in place to show we have the quality and ability in this country.

“The University of Sheffield is the leading institution in the scheme and has developed a series of pilot schemes to recruit new blood over the last few years – through apprenticeships, trainee technicians and fast-track graduate technicians.

“The University is pleased to have been granted this HEFCE catalyst bid to work over the next three years for the benefit of the sector as a whole.”