FBS Technicians' Away Day 2017

Find out what technicians from FBS got up to on their annual Away Day.

On the 23rd May, 59 technicians from the Faculty of Biological Sciences went on their annual Away Day. Not a trip to the seaside, like some of you might be imagining, but off to the Worsley building for a day of talks and breakout sessions. The day was organised by Jenny Baker, one of our Technical Service Managers, who recruited a team of volunteers from all areas of the Faculty along with Marcus Hill from Organisational Development and Professional Learning to help plan and run the day.

The theme for the day was “Technicians make it happen” based on the Gatsby campaign http://technicians.org.uk/make-it-happen/. Before the day technical staff were asked to provide a photo of themselves along with a caption of something they make happen, to be displayed on poster boards at the event. It was great to be able to put names to faces, and appreciate the jobs some people do.

Display board showing peoples photos.

The event was opened by Professor John Ladbury, our Dean, who updated us on plans for the Faculty refurbishment. John commented on the current lack of career development and progression for technical staff and said we need to improve this as a Faculty. He was amazed by the range of skills on the photoboards and asked for them to remain on show for a few weeks.

Our next speaker was Natalie Kennerley, Project Manager working on the Technical Development and Modernisation (TDM) project at the University of Sheffield https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/tdm. This project looks at the development and embedding of career pathways across the HE sector. The project has identified areas of concern such as succession planning (40% of HE technicians are aged 50+). Also that a clear understanding of the roles, responsibilities and skill sets of technical staff is needed. They have created a new system called “Aspire” to log CPD, manage training and facilitate e-learning for apprenticeships.

Post-it notes

The first breakout session asked the question, “What is IT?” What do we make happen? Being technicians yourselves you will realise that the list is endless! Pretty much everything that can be done will be done at some point by technicians. Some key themes that came out were:

  • being flexible
  • motivating
  • supporting
  • advising
  • inspiring
  • problem solving
  • building knowledge banks

Our next speakers were Carole Craven and Eileen Barrett, from the LOGIK Centre talking about the range of resources available to help us with personal and career development. http://www.logik.leeds.ac.uk/

After lunch Patrick Murphy, a Teaching Fellow gave an informative talk about the importance of teaching technicians in improving student education and the student experience in FBS.

To give ourselves a break from talking, we then had a quick ice-breaker game getting into teams to see who could make the most words and the longest word from the letters in “Technicians make it happen” (happenstance). Back into breakout groups we discussed innovative ideas that we have to make new things happen. Watch this space!

Our final talk of the day left us all in a contemplative mood. We had invited Professor Tim Benton, Dean for Strategic Research Initiatives here in Leeds to talk about why the future of food matters to us all. Tim has held the role of UK Champion for Global Food Security and also works as a Global Agenda Steward for the World Economic Forum. This highlighted the complexity of where our food comes from, supply chains, agricultural land issues, soil management and what we need to do about food waste. A sobering fact is that the food that the EU and North America throws away is the equivalent to Sub-Saharan African production. There were many other similar messages within this talk. Definitely thought provoking.

Badges with I heart Techincians
The day was closed by our Senior Technical Services Manager, Jackie Goodall, followed by an invitation to coffee and cake back in our Faculty Social Space. The day was a great opportunity to meet others in the Faculty and for us to have a chance to have our voices heard.

Many thanks to the Technicians Make It Happen team who supplied us with resources about professional development and lots of badges!

By Jennie Hibbard

Technicians Make IT Happen
Cartoon by Andy West

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