Giving the ‘invisible’ workforce a voice

In the field or in the lab they play an important role which can go unrecognised outside their own institutions, but University technicians have a major impact on the teaching and learning experience of any higher education student.

To ensure the role of technical staff is not forgotten the Higher Education Academy (HEA) stages an annual awards ceremony, and this year University of Nottingham technician Kelly Vere has been named as the HEA Technician of the Year across all of the STEM disciplines — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Kelly, who is a senior technician and laboratory manager in the School of Life Sciences and Faculty of Engineering, said: “I’m hugely proud to have been awarded the Higher Education Academy’s Technician of the Year Award across the STEM disciplines. Technical staff make a vital, yet often unsung, contribution to a wide range of university activities, not least the student teaching and learning experience and it’s fantastic to see the technical contribution to higher education formally recognised by the HEA through these Awards.”

Based in the Institute of Biophysics, Imaging and Optical Science Kelly has become nationally respected for her ideas, vision and ability to voice the opinions of the otherwise ‘invisible’ HE workforce. She has sparked national debates and authored articles in both The Guardian and Times Higher. Without intending to do so she has become a spokesperson for highlighting the contribution the technical workforce makes to their institutions and students as well as publicising technical work as a valued career option and championing technical professional registration.

Over her career Kelly has supported many students through degree programmes by assisting in research projects and laboratory classes, providing pastoral care and proofreading many PhD theses. Scientifically, Kelly has co-authored a number of research publications and presented her research nationally and internationally.he is passionate about ensuring recognition of the crucial role technicians play in the success of their institutions. In 2011 she gained an MA in International Higher Education at The University of Nottingham. The work from her thesis ‘University technicians: undervalued, misused & misunderstood?’ has featured in Times Higher Education and The Guardian. She has given a number of invited talks in this area. In 2013 she embarked on a Professional Doctorate in Education aiming to increase the academic research available on the technical role in higher education. In parallel, she is leading a programme to enable and improve professional development of over 600 technical staff across The University of Nottingham.

Kelly is Head of Special Projects at the Institute of Science and Technology and a Registered Scientist (RSci) accredited by the Science Council. She sits on the Committee of the University Bioscience Managers’ Association and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Kelly chairs The University of Nottingham Technical Focus Group, an initiative that aims to raise the profile of the technical contribution to higher education, which has been shortlisted for an S-Lab Award for supporting world class science. They have been shortlisted in the ‘Making a Difference’ category. Results will be announced in September at the Supporting World Class Science conference at Kings College London.

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