The Technician Commitment (TC) has recently published a report with a range of sector partners, setting out the impact of COVID-19 on the technical community in HE and research.
The TC worked with; Science Council, Institute of Physics, Royal Society of Biology, Royal Society of Chemistry, Wellcome, and Midlands Innovation in order to understand the impact of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) on the technical workforce in higher education and research. Over 1300 responses were collected from technicians across 99 universities and research institutes from all four nations of the UK.
The resulting report, ‘COVID19: The Impact on Technicians in UK Higher Education & Research’ offers insight into the impact of the pandemic on working practices for technicians and shines a light on technical contributions at an extraordinary time. The technical community has been at the forefront of the sector’s response to COVID-19, with much of the technical workforce closely involved in the rapid shut down of facilities and campuses.
Technicians have also made a significant 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. The Technicians Make it Happen campaign has featured many of these efforts during the summer months.
Some of the report recommendations include:
- Clear communication is to technical managers and their teams is vital to implement and maintain safe working environments for staff and student colleagues.
- Inclusion of technical representatives on COVID-19 reopening working groups is essential – the practical experience and expertise offered by technicians is essential and should be utilised wherever possible.
- Technicians should be recognised for their frontline role in delivering high quality, practical teaching and learning experiences for students. Recognition should be ensured in strategic planning discussions around future teaching and learning provisions, due to the essential role of technicians in multi-user workplaces.
- The technical community need tailored provision to support their mental health and well-being. Care should be taken to ensure that their wellbeing is fully supported following frontline work and periods of furlough, and that this support should be widely visible.
- The promotion and development of technical networks to enable the sharing of guidance, best practice and experiences.
- Future models of flexible working should be considered for the technical community where possible. The majority of technicians reported that they have been able to work from home during the lockdown period, offering insight into possible future flexible working arrangements for technical staff.
Kelly Vere, Programme Director for the Technician Commitment and Director of Technical Skills & Strategy at the University of Nottingham said:
“Technical colleagues across the sector have been at the forefront of the response to COVID-19. The Technician Commitment, together with our partners, are delighted to be shining a light on the vital work of technicians throughout the pandemic through the publication of this report. It is key that we recognise their crucial contributions and ensure visibility and support for this key community.”
Helen Pain, Chair of the Science Council and Acting CEO of the Royal Society of Chemistry said:
“This report highlights the vital roles of technicians at an extraordinary time for higher education and research. I am thrilled that this body of work has allowed our community to make a number of recommendations to recognise technical expertise and ensure support for technicians as we move forward.”