Science Council answers call to develop the technician workforce in the UK

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A report published today by the Technician Council indicates an alarming skills gap between current technician numbers in the UK and the 450,000 needed by 2020

These technicians will be essential to underpin a growing innovation economy.

The report calls on government, public sector employers, industry leaders and professional bodies.


The Science Council has answered the call by establishing a new professional register for science technicians, finally embracing technicians within the professional science community.

Workforce research published in September showed that 20% of the UK workforce – some 5.8million people – are now employed in science based roles in the UK economy and that this is expected to increase to 7.1m in 2030: of this work force, about one-third are non-graduates working with science skills in a variety of ways and many of these will be highly skilled technicians.  

Other research for the Science Council found that technicians do not feel valued or recognised as professionals, and they do not believe they are accepted as an integral part of the science workforce.  Yet in many sectors, technicians are at the heart of the workforce.  One technician told the researchers: “It is important to have a professional identity, as it would help raise our self esteem and realise how important technicians are in science.” Another commented: "If you ask our research colleagues they might see us as failed scientists, rather than something we’ve chosen to do.  In some regards we are [treated as being] at the same grade as janitors…”

Diana Garnham, CEO of the Science Council says:  “Until now technicians have been undervalued and unrecognised.  The Science Council agrees with the Technician Council report that there is a strong case for raising the profile of technicians in the science workforce by providing for professional registration alongside graduates and postgraduates.  We hope that this will help motivate and retain those already in these roles as well as encourage more young people to see this as a great potential career in science that does not require going to university.”

The Science Council has set out how it is working to ensure professional recognition and development for technicians working across science.  The Science Council's new professional register, Registered Science Technician (RSciTech) will recognise high standards of competence and raise aspirations through a professional framework of registration that includes a potential pathway to chartered status. Alongside this, the qualification pathways and routes to science careers are being addressed, seeking to ensure they reflect the balance of skills needs both now and for the future, while the establishment of alternative entry routes and the recognition of workplace learning will help ensure fair access to the profession. 

Through its careers from science website Future Morph, the Science Council will also increase awareness of the career opportunities associated with technician roles, while it is already working to ensure that technicians are fully embraced within the culture of the professional bodies and that their training and development needs are met.

Technicians undertake a variety of roles including:

Supporting leading researchers and Nobel Prize winners in designing and undertaking experiments

Delivering practical science in schools, colleges and universities

In key growth sectors such as industrial biotechnology by developing products from enzymes

Being part of the teams developing new and greener fuels

Helping to investigate and develop chemical processes to make them more sustainable and lower cost

Ensuring safety in medicines, food, water and air quality and other every day essentials

Supporting high quality patient care in the NHS by delivering diagnostic services and advanced technology treatments

Undertaking skills measurement to underpin accreditation and consumer confidence

Ends


Science Council
- is an umbrella organisation for learned societies and professional bodies across science and its applications which works to advance and support the professional practice of science at all levels.  Science Council already holds a register of Chartered Scientists (CSci) operating at Masters and above.  The new Technician Register (RSciTech) has been developed alongside a new intermediate register for graduate scientists (RSci).  Seven professional bodies (providing coverage across employment sectors) have been awarded pilot licences which will run throughout 2012.  

Science Council Workforce research - This UK workforce research is a starting point in providing greater depth of data on the size, shape, distribution and qualifications of the UK science workforce today as well as giving some projections of future changes.  And it takes into account the complexities of today’s science workforce, both in science and from science.  

The research found that the science workforce consists of those with postgraduate qualifications and graduates as well as people with non-graduate qualifications.   Within the science sectors (core and related) 34% of the science workforce is non-graduate (with 17% QCF level 3&4); 32% are graduate and 26% are postgraduate.  

Professional Registers – Launching this week, a new website  provides a guide to the Science Council’s professional registers with details of the standards for, and benefits of, registration as a Registered Science Technician or Registered Scientist.  It also gives information on how employers and individual technicians can sign up for professional recognition. 

Future Morph -  is the careers from science website with more detailed information about subject choices, qualifications and careers arising from the study of science and maths.   The website has information about careers and training for technicians.

Further information contact

Diana Garnham, Chief Executive, Science Council   Tel: 020 7922 7884 or 07768 055853

Ali Orr, Registrar, Science Council   Tel: 020 7922 7878