Technician Commitment Signatory Conference, 15 June 2022

Angela Beddows (School of Physics and Astronomy) reports on this event, celebrating achievements and activities around the Technician Commitment.

The newly restored York Guildhall

Interior of the Guildhall, York.

In June, I attended the Technician Commitment (TC) Signatory Event at the recently restored Guildhall in York, which is now owned by the University of York. The restoration had updated it for 21st century use whilst remaining sympathetic to its 15th century construction and was a fine place to have a meeting of Technicians from across the UK.

The event started with a presentation by Kelly Vere MBE on the recent achievements of the Technician Commitment, including its 5th Birthday on the 31st May 2022. The Technician Commitment has started a collaboration fund providing funding to Signatory Institutions to enable collaborative projects with external partners to advance the aims of the Commitment. Funding is awarded on a competitive basis and invites submissions in the range of £100 - £2000 to support the creation of collaborative opportunities. The TC has also started its own Technician of the Year awards and “In conversation with..." articles which are available on the Commitment website

Professor Charlie Jeffery, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of York provided a talk titled “The Technician Commitment: A Vice-Chancellor’s perspective”. This detailed how the Commitment had been embedded in the University and the good progress they had made towards their Action Plan on implementing it.  

Next up was an opportunity to hear from recipients of the Technician Commitment Collaboration Fund. This included the University of Leeds and University of York’s Yorkshire Technician Exchange Partnership (YoTEP), which was set up earlier this year to increase collaboration and knowledge exchange between the technical workforces of both universities. Both Lucy Hudson and Graeme McAllister gave a really good update on this and highlighted the successful collaborations so far and upcoming collaborations. They also said that both Universities would continue to fund this Exchange once the money from Fund runs out. They are also considering expanding YoTEP to cover other higher education establishments in the Yorkshire area such as the Universities of Bradford and Sheffield.

Mel Leitch from the University of Newcastle spoke about their aim to get more events happening in the north of England as they always seem to be held down south. The TCC funding helped them put on the Technician Partnership Conference 2022, on 6 July, by funding a photography exhibition to celebrate the diversity of technicians and a personal development/ careers professional speaker amongst other things. 

After a lovely lunch, Kelly Vere MBE gave an informative update on the new upcoming permanent exhibition due to open in November 2022 in The David Sainsbury Gallery in the Science Museum, London. It will showcase the varied ways technicians work. The exhibition is sponsored by Marvel Studios (the billion-dollar movie and comic franchise) and will have Shuri’s lab from the Black Panther movie displayed as a part of the exhibition. There are opportunities for signatories and supporters of the Technician Commitment to get involved in a number of ways. One way to get involved is to have technicians as part of a work placement for a week in the gallery (instead of using holidays) and talking to the visitors about the gallery and what they do in their job. This is still to be discussed with the University so you will hear about this via the mailing list if this is agreed. The TC are also investigating supplying funding for travel and accommodation to cover the cost of getting involved in this way and training will be provided by the museum. 

After a short break the next session was a splendid update from three signatory institutions on their progress implementing the Technician Commitment. The first was by Ben Coles from the University of Southampton who signed up the same year we did in 2018 and have made similar progress. Recent developments were the increase of the visibility of their technical staff with "We are Technicians" banners across their campus (like we have outside the Student Union with alumni on). They have also started their own 'Technician of the Year' awards celebrating staff excelling on Visibility, Recognition, Career Development, Sustainability, Innovation and Environmental Sustainability, have promoted professional registration for creative arts practitioners and engineers, and supported the roll out of technician staff profiles on their website amongst other good initiatives. The University of Huddersfield (who signed up to the TC in 2019) had some good developments to share including having created a two-minute video profile of Technical Staff, which showcased their skills and knowledge on their website and developed a new appraisal system for their Technical staff.

Next up was the UKRI Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) who recently signed up to the TC. Their primary focus at the start was visibility as their facilities and ~2,000 strong technician workforce are spread across the UK. Similar to Southampton they had big banners showcasing their technicians across multiple sites and set up their own Technician Awards this year. The winners of these were then invited to speak at their next Technician Showcase conference. They showcase all those that are nominated for awards on their own website which they also set up as part of the Commitment. 

It was a very good day hearing the various presentations and being able to network with Technicians from across the UK including the Universities of Strathclyde, Aston, Belfast, Northampton and Southampton to name a few. The next Signatory Event will take place on Wednesday 23 November 2022 in London in the permanent Technician exhibition in The David Sainsbury Gallery at the Science Museum.

Angela Beddows
Lab Technician | EPS Faculty Technician Champion | RSci | MIScT | MInstP

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