University’s champion of ‘unsung heroes’ leads team delivering report on securing the UK’s technical talent of the future

February 1st, 2022

Kelly Vere MBE, Director of Technical Skills and Strategy at the University of Nottingham, has led a national report that gives strategic insight into the UK’s technical community and sets out a bold vision for how technicians can strengthen science, engineering and the creative industries.

Kelly leads Midlands Innovation’s TALENT programme, a £5m collaboration between the University of Nottingham and seven other Midlands universities, that nationally champions the role of technicians and delivers strategic insights into delivering the technical skills the UK needs to drive economic growth.

The report by The TALENT Commission, chaired by Professor Sir John Holman, reveals the crucial role of technical skills in academia, research and innovation and outlines recommendations for the higher education and research sector.

New data about skills, roles and careers of the UK’s technical talent, generated by a research team at the University of Nottingham, has informed 16 overarching recommendations for employers, government, policy makers, funders, technicians, professional bodies and learned societies.

The changes call for a broadening of technical career entry routes across vocational and academic pathways, greater investment in technical careers at all levels and a move to ensure that technical staff are involved and considered in strategic decision-making processes.

The research highlights the extent to which employers, professional bodies, government and funders would benefit from collaboratively implementing the proposed changes to strengthen technicians’ vital role in teaching, research and development.

Kelly said: “The depth of insight the TALENT Commission has generated provides a strong foundation to empower, upskill and create career opportunities for a UK-wide workforce of around 30,000-50,000.

Kelly Vere, MBE

“The recommendations offer solutions to strengthen the technical community, ensuring that it is diverse, inclusive, sustainable and fit for purpose, now and in the future. They also ensure technical skills, roles, and careers will be recognised, respected, aspired to, supported, and developed.”

At the launch of the report today (1 February) Kelly joined speakers including Professor Sir John Holman, Chair of TALENT Policy Commission and Professor Melanie Welham, UKRI’s People and Culture Champion and Executive Chair, BBSRC.

She added: “It is vital that these recommendations are integrated into and expand on existing UK-wide initiatives like the Technician Commitment to build on the work that has already been done. When the sector starts to think more strategically about the role of technicians, we can unlock even greater research potential.

“At the University of Nottingham, I am extremely proud of the essential role of our technicians in enhancing the learning experience of our students and in helping to deliver our world-class research. Our specialist skills and partnerships with colleagues in industry are crucial in driving innovation and growth in the regional and national economy.”

Read the full report

Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange, said: “Kelly has offered leadership nationally for this important agenda and developed partnerships with higher education institutions, industry, government departments, funding bodies and learned societies. She has helped ensure that our remarkable technicians are no longer ‘unsung heroes’  and is helping shape policy and programmes that recognise the value of technicians in securing a competitive, skills-rich economy.

“As one of the eight Midlands Innovation universities leading the TALENT programme, we champion the essential role of technicians in enhancing student experience and delivering research that has real impact.”

Last week, Kelly received her MBE from His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge at Windsor Castle. She received the honour in the Queen’s New Year Honours 2021 for services to championing the role of technicians in higher education and research institutions.

The Talent Commission is funded by UKRI-Research England and David Sweeney, Executive Chair for Research England, said: “We are delighted to have supported this important work about the often-underplayed role of technicians in academia, research and innovation.

“We welcome the findings, which align strongly with UKRI’s vision for an outstanding research and innovation system in the UK that gives everyone the opportunity to contribute and to benefit, enriching lives locally, nationally and internationally.

“The recently published consultation on our EDI Strategy sets our ambitions for an inclusive research and innovation system where everyone feels included, is heard and different skills and perspectives are valued.

“The implementation of these findings across the sector will help deliver on this ambition.”

Dr Helen Turner, Director for Midlands Innovation and Co-Lead for the TALENT programme said: “This report is the culmination of almost two years’ worth of in-depth research by the TALENT team and Midlands Innovation partners. It provides a strong foundation to empower, upskill and create career opportunities for a UK-wide workforce of around 30,000-50,000.

“Midlands Innovation has been championing the role of technicians for several years; establishing the UK Higher Education Technicians Summit – the UK’s largest  national conference dedicated to technicians – and the acclaimed Papin Prizes which celebrate the achievements and successes of technicians in higher education and research.

“The TALENT Commission further supports this ambition and offers a blueprint for the sector to support the UK’s vision to become a global superpower in science, engineering, and the creative industries.”

The £4.99 million four-year Midlands Innovation TALENT Programme launched in 2020.

TALENT is underpinned by a grant of more than £3 million from the Research England Development Fund. The rest of the funding is provided by Midlands Innovation universities and key partners including the Science Council, Technician Commitment, Wellcome, British Geological Survey, Manufacturing Technology Centre, Rolls-Royce Plc, Unilever, Thales Alenia Space, Cobra Biologics and Midlands Engine.

Midlands Innovation is a consortium of eight universities in the Midlands which collective deliver world-class research to power economic growth. The members are: Aston University, University of Birmingham, Cranfield University, Leicester University, Loughborough University, Keele University, University of Nottingham, University of Warwick.

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