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Technical Services: a community that works together

Technician handling gas cylinders

This week we're featuring a series of articles on the work of Technical Services which is a centralised function at the University. Technical Services colleagues use their practical skills to support and develop teaching, research, commercial and outreach activities.

Technical Services encompass over one hundred technicians and a group of Health and Safety coordinators. They are organised into four Clusters, three supporting the life sciences, environment and arts, construction and education disciplines and the Operations Cluster which provides overarching mechanical, glassblowing, workshop and compliance support. Technical skills are diverse and have been gained from experience and practical application of sophisticated techniques using highly specialised equipment in diverse specialist environments.

Some of the activities that are supported by technical staff include laboratory based work such as culturing microorganisms, archaeological excavations and fieldwork, setting up plant trials in glasshouses, poly-tunnels and farm plots, setting up art exhibitions and theatre productions, photography, screen printing and graphic design, bee keeping, husbandry of small animals, analysis of chemicals and so much more! And equally important is their capacity to interact with a wide range of people: PhD students, taught students, academic staff and commercial clients.

Changing from a school based to a centralized function meant that new opportunities for interaction emerged. As well as all staff meetings, outside of term-time, we have fortnightly TechSOQ drop-in sessions. The monthly Technical Matters newsletter features a Technician of the Month or Why Reading? article which tells colleagues about individuals within the team and their motivation for working at the University.

The Wellbeing Group, chaired by Alice Dibley, organises a range of activities, including yoga, a shared produce garden and a jogging group as well as charity coffee mornings where the hosts often include a tour of their specialist facilities. The Technical Services Staff Survey Group formed a year ago and meets to discuss and implement improvements following on from the 2016 staff survey. Staff are encouraged, through drop-in sessions and brief questionnaires to suggest ways in which they can improve their working environment.

 

As well as working together within Technical Services, our staff engage across the University with representation on the Staff Forum and the People Plan Programme. In 2017, the University became one of the founding signatories of the Technician Commitment, a scheme launched by the Science Council to ensure greater visibility and recognition for technicians in higher education.

In addition, the University was awarded Employer Champion status by the Science Council. Employer Champion status recognises a shared commitment to investing in the development of staff and supporting them to become professionally registered. It recognises the importance of safeguarding and investing in technical skills and expertise to ensure sustainability of the technical workforce.

Alison Pugh, an ancillary technician, is part of the Operations Team talks about experience at the University:

“I started working at the university six months ago and quickly settled in and immediately felt comfortable and valued in the university environment. All of my team members have been extremely welcoming and I enjoy helping staff and students with their media sterilisation and glassware requirements. I work across many buildings and teams and through this, and in joining the Technical Services Wellbeing Committee, I quickly got to know many of my technical colleagues.

“I have joined the Shared Produce Garden group and I participate in the Charity Coffee Mornings. I am also a member of the Technical Services Staff Survey Group and our SharePoint Working Group. I thoroughly enjoy being surrounded by learning opportunities and I plan to apply for professional registration in due course.”

You can find out more about the work that Technical Services on their website.

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