Technicians Make It Happen Campaign

The Gatsby Charitable Foundation launched the Technicians Make It Happen (TMiH) campaign in March 2016.

It started as a gallery exhibition, which now tours around the country (particularly at education conferences) and has a campaign website

The message: The demand for technicians is growing. Their diverse skills are critical to the UK’s performance in the global business arena. Yet we face a growing skills shortfall. By training to be a technician, you could work for some of the top employers across the UK. And with opportunities available right now in an incredible range of exciting sectors including music, gaming, aerospace, film, automotive, fashion and more, there has never been a better time to become a technician. Make it happen.

There are many and varied technician stories on the TMiH website: It seemed that The University of Manchester would have some interesting technical stories to offer to the campaign.

Working with various individuals across all three faculties, some suitable technical roles were identified. Having willing participants, in November 2017 I submitted four “technician stories” to the campaign for consideration. The campaign organisers were so impressed with our range of technical staff they decided to come and meet with them all. In February 2018 Lauren Golding (Communications Officer, Gatsby) came along with a camera crew to meet with the technicians. This visit allowed Lauren to get a real sense of each of their stories: understanding their background, how they came to be in their technical role and why they do it. Being a very visual campaign, they were pleased to find such photogenic faces and work spaces. The technical case studies are designed to feature on the TMiH website and on social media.

The first of our case studies went live on Friday 25th May, and it looks fantastic! You can read more about Stephen Lindsay-Smith (Mortuary Technical Manager, FBMH) on the website:

Throughout June and July the campaign organisers are hoping to feature the other three case studies on their website. So keep an eye out for Claire Fuzipeg (Electronics Technician, FSE), Thomas Bishop (Laboratory Technician, Humanities) and Dominika Knych (Analytical Chemistry Technician, FBMH) in the coming months.

I’m very pleased that each of the Faculties has been supportive about contributing to this campaign. It is a great demonstration of our Technician Commitment within The University of Manchester.

Author: Cassandra Hodgkinson (Technical Operations Manager, FBMH)

Textiles Workplace Tour

The Faculty of Science and Engineering opened its doors at the Sackville Street Building so that technical staff from across the three faculties could see some of what goes on within a component of the School of Materials. This well attended Workplace Tour offered an opportunity to learn about the diverse and sophisticated industry of textiles, observing industrial scale sewing, weaving, knitting, dyeing and fabric printing equipment.  These facilities are used to develop sound technical knowledge and an understanding of all the processes involved in the manufacturing of fabrics and development of fashion products. This tour looked at the facilities as well as the technical roles within the School who assist students and researchers understand the fundamental principles of materials and the manufacturing processes. Everyone enjoyed meeting with each of the technical staff as they walked us through the environment they work in.

First stop was the Spinning Laboratory where Peter Moroz explained how they prepare/process the raw materials to produce the different types of thread, and demonstrate the various types of machinery that can be used in the process. This then lead to the Weaving Laboratory where Mark Chadwick introduced 17 commercial looms and associated preparation equipment. In this area students and researchers come to understand the craft of fabric manufacture.

Laura-Ann Kavanagh is a relatively new member of the technical team, and she walked us through the Knitting Laboratory. There were around 18 commercial systems in the room that included flatbed, circular and warp technology for producing garments. This accompanies the hand knitted range as well, with plenty of examples of garments and other items produced available to view.

There was a lot of interest in the room that housed both the Laser Cutting and Digital Print Workshops. David Kenyon was able to show the range of Digital Print Technology and Computer Aided Design (CAD) Print Systems, as well as the laser cutter.

Hannah Rampley greeted us in the Dye House and talked us through a vital component of the industry – the ability to engineer the chemistry and colouration palette. The research being conducted is primarily involved with the synthesis, application, performance and measurement of novel coloured and colourless molecules. There is an emphasis on improving on conventional technology by developing ways of doing things better, quicker, cheaper and with decreased environmental impact.

We were introduced to the idea that if you are going to go into the field of Fashion Business you need to understand how the garments are produced. Fiona Colton showed us everything the Sewing Laboratory had to offer, where students are taught the basics of sewing, different types of stitches, and how to put a garment together. All of this helping them to identify what makes the difference between a quality product and a cheaper product.

It is clear that the School of Materials has gone through a technological regeneration. This makes for an evolving work place for the technical staff, passing on experience with conventional techniques and helping develop applications with new technologies.

Many thanks to Mark Chadwick and his team for hosting this tour.

Cassandra Hodgkinson (Technical Operations Manager)


Electronics Workplace Tour

The Electronics tour was a first class talk with so many interesting aspects to it including how to design and make electrical circuit boards. We met the whole team and we were all given an insight into what each of them do both in the office and workshop.

We were introduced to the many different types of jobs they are faced with that come from across different areas in the Faculty and in some cases outside of the Faculty from repairing electrical items to designing circuit boxes along with the time spent on each of their jobs. We were shown loads of demonstrations in the office and the workshop and was thoroughly enjoyable to listen to.

I would definitely recommend to anyone who is interested in working in this field, or science which relies so heavily upon this kind of support.

Steve Mottley, senior systems manager



Wolfson Molecular Imaging Centre (WMIC) Workplace Tour

The TEaM Tour of the Wolfson Molecular Imaging Centre (WMIC) took place on the afternoon of January 10th 2018. The WMIC building contains aseptic radiochemistry production facilities (cGMP) and operates an ambitious PET (Positronic Emission Tomography) radiotracer development programme for both GMP and non-GMP activities. Production Team Leader, Michael Green acted as the guide for the tour, showing the attendees the various areas where technicians work to help the centre achieves its research goals.

The tour started in the lower ground floor level of the building, the area were the cyclotron, cleanroom and QC lab are, along with radiochemistry and analytical labs, and the write-up area for the technical staff.


Upon entering the radiochemistry facilities, everybody donned a lab coat and pair of safety spectacles, as well as a pair of overshoes; a couple of people also wore a dosimeter badge.
Feedback from the tour was all positive which one attendee describing it as “a great learning curve as well as a networking opportunity for technical staff from FSE and FBMH who were in attendance on the tour”.


Thank you to Hamza al-Qasmi (radiochemistry technician) and Michael Green (Production team leader) for putting on the tour.
Nathan Murray, biomaterials technician (Pictures & Comments); Fidel Peacock, research technician (Comments)

Technician’s excellent lab book secures patent application

A technician working in the MIB building was recently rewarded by the University’s Thank You scheme for the excellence of her record-keeping, and its impact on a patent application.  Anu Balasundaram works for Professor Clare Mills’ Molecular Allergology group, preparing and analysing ‘challenge meals’ for their commercial partner, Reacta Biotech.  Challenge meals are foods containing precise quantities of a known food allergen, e.g. peanut protein, or a placebo.  When administered to people with food allergies in a double blind placebo-controlled food challenge under medical supervision, they can be used to give an accurate food allergy diagnosis.

Reacta Biotech are in the process of applying for a patent in this area and leaned heavily on Anu’s lab book to provide evidence to support the application.  Dr. Martin Wickham, Reacta’s Commercialisation Manager wrote that Anu’s lab book record “provided us with exactly the evidence required, and therefore made my job of progressing the patent, really easy.”  He went on to say “I genuinely do not know what we would have done without the laboratory records” and praised their clarity and the speed with which she was able to produce them.

Anu’s supervisor, Professor Clare Mills, said “A good lab book is vital for substantiating data and conclusions made in papers, and also in identifying and protecting intellectual property…  Her exemplary lab book, with experiments clearly described, dated and signed off, has been essential in providing documentary evidence to the patent examiner.”

As part of its commitment to recognising its staff’s achievements, the University rewarded Anu with some gift vouchers under its Thank You Scheme.  Her line manager, Geoff Blunt, said “It’s so great to see Anu’s hard work and attention to detail being acknowledged and celebrated; it shows her work has real impact and she performs a vital role for the University and its partners.”

For more information on the University’s Thank You Scheme, and how you can request a card or present for a member of staff who should be acknowledged, please click here.

May Coffee Morning and new Technical Tours

The TEaM quarterly coffee morning was on 29th May and was well-attended.  Perkin Elmer demonstrated FTIR and ICP spectrometers and attendees were able to find out about upcoming Technical Tours.  More information on these shortly but they will include:

  • Chemistry’s electronics team
  • The Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama
  • A repeat of the Biological Facility tours from last year

Lord Sainsbury opens the National Technician Development Centre at the University of Sheffield

Lord Sainsbury was a special guest at the opening ceremony of the National Technician Development Centre for Higher Education which took place at the University of Sheffield on Tuesday 13 February 2018.

Welcoming him at the ceremony were the President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, Professor Sir Keith Burnett, and the Director of the National Technician Development Centre and Chairman of the Institute of Science and Technology (IST), Terry Croft.

The National Technician Development Centre for Higher Education was set up following an investment of £1.125 million, including £546,000 from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and funding from the University of Sheffield and other partners of more than £580,000.

The centre will provide higher education institutions with access to information, expertise and tools that will enable them to create a sustainable future for their technical staff and services.

It will work with partners in higher education and related institutions to provide a national framework for standardised job titles, grading and career pathways across the technical workforce, including plans to increase the number of apprentices working in the sector, ensuring the workforce of the future is fully equipped to meet the needs of higher education institutions.

On opening the centre, Lord Sainsbury spoke of the importance of developing the technical workforce: “I believe the work that the National Technician Development Centre is doing is of national importance due to the tireless efforts of Terry Croft and his colleagues and the inspirational leadership of Sir Keith Burnett.

“It is also a real breakthrough that HEFCE has committed serious funding, alongside the University of Sheffield and other partners, to enable the National Technician Development Centre to expand the support it offers to higher education institutions around the country”.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, who is President of the Science Council and the President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, has been a long-term advocate for technical education through his work with HEaTED (Higher Education and Technicians Educational Development) and the Science Council. He said: “I am absolutely delighted that Lord Sainsbury formally opened the National Technician Development Centre, a national facility to support and develop the professional technicians who are so crucial to universities and to the UK’s future in science and innovation.

“Today is also the expression of many years of hard work by people such as Terry Croft who have recognised the importance of professional technicians for many years.

“As a scientist, I am only too aware that from the most delicate medical experiment to the great Hadron Collider at CERN and the grand fusion project at Culham, Science often relies on the most skilled technicians. Yet these vital individuals do no come from nowhere.

“They need support to develop their careers and the recognition that will motivate the most able young people to flourish in their work. The National Technician Development Centre will offer exactly that.”

The work of highly skilled professional technicians can often be overlooked by the Higher Education sector and the challenges of recruitment are widely known. Research by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation suggests that the UK needs 700,000 more technicians by 2020.

The expertise of the team at the new national centre is available to universities across the UK and covers a number of strategic issues around restructuring technical services, business continuity, succession planning, recruitment and other related areas. This includes the Higher Education Institutions’ Technical Resources Toolkit, available to aid universities in understanding their technical staff and improving the sustainability of their technical services.

Terry Croft, Director of the new centre said: “We are delighted that Lord Sainsbury has officially opened the new national centre. It is a major landmark in professionalisation and modernisation of the UK technical community, especially in the higher education sector.

“It is vital to have this one stop shop at the National Technician Development Centre, where we can bring together expertise from across the sector, to solve the issues that employers and employees face today and into the future.

“We look forward to working with all higher education institutions and research institutions to deliver a sustainable future for technical staff and services.”

Lord Sainsbury also visited the University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), which carries out world-leading research into advanced machining, manufacturing and materials and has more than 100 industrial partners, ranging from global giants like Boeing, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and Airbus to small companies.

January Coffee & Networking Event

On 17th January, TEaM held one of its quarterly coffee & networking events, this time with a stall from the School of Geography, following on from feedback that these events could be improved by adding some technical focus.

Geography showcased some of their X-ray diffraction equipment and provided a talking point.  The event was very popular, in fact the coffee ran out, so please remember to book on the eventbrite if you are coming, so we can make sure there’s enough next time!

The Technical Apprenticeship Programme

Editorial by Colin Baines

What the Technical Apprenticeship Programme is all about.

The University of Manchester has a long and distinguished tradition of academic excellence, and an ambitious agenda for the future. There are close links to industry, the public sector and the local community.  The University has three core goals: world-class research; outstanding learning and student experience; and social responsibility. The Technical Apprenticeship Programme seeks to ensure our young learners are educated and trained in order to assist this vision and ensure we meet our strategic targets.

The Apprenticeship’s training provider is based at Trafford College in Stretford, Manchester. Following a competitive selection process, Trafford Centre for Science and Technology was chosen from six alternative providers, prior to our first intake in September 2013. The young learners study a bespoke programme of key functional skills and work towards additional units of study which are specific to their skills and the Faculties’ strategic future requirements.

We have an annual intake of apprentices each September, selecting from around a hundred local, Greater Manchester applicants. Following internal shortlisting by a University wide technical management team, the top twenty-five candidates are invited to a selection day, where we assess their ability to work independently, within teams and discuss individual career thoughts and aspirations.

We operate two main streams: Improving Operational Performance; Laboratory and Science Technicians. All new apprentices are initially offered a four year fixed term contract and work towards a BTEC Level 2/3 Diploma whilst studying a Level 2/3 NVQ depending on their chosen route. After successful completion, a consolidation year is built into the timetable allowing preparation for HNC/D including, employability skills such as report writing, interview practice and feedback, presentation and project management skills, further Maths and English.

Why the Apprenticeship programme was established.

The University of Manchester Technical Apprenticeship Programme in Engineering Operations and Laboratory and Associated Technical Activities was created to help solve the future demand for skilled technical staff across the University by granting young local people entry to employment via well thought out and structured training positions.

The technical workforce is largely over 50 years of age and we estimate nine percent will retire annually from this 800 strong pool. The programme is expected to encourage apprentices to develop their careers over time and become analytical scientist/support staff, senior experimental officers, laboratory technicians, technical service managers or project managers, replacing some of the outgoing staff.

Since the Apprenticeship programme began in 2013, thirteen apprentices have secured permanent positions within the University indicating the success of the programmed activities and the quality of education and training received.

The wider community need.

The time and money spent training apprentices yields several benefits including being able to train and educate young people within the culture of the organisation, fulfilling aspects of the University’s social responsibility and in the later training years, the apprentices contribute to the business whilst still acquiring useful skills and competencies.

The Apprenticeship Management Team works in close collaboration with the training provider, Trafford College and the staff training and development team at University of Manchester to enhance the apprenticeship programmes with ‘add-on’ courses that are directly applicable to the apprentices, their professional development and the future technical strategy. The Apprentice Management Team regularly visit apprentices in college to see them in action, monitor their academic progress and maintain personal links with Trafford College. Pastoral care is on hand for advice on anything, recognising apprentices are older teenagers/young adults who need to cope with life challenges.

In addition, the Apprenticeship Management Team seeks further opportunities whenever they are available, for example the Halle Orchestra ‘design a musical instrument’ project. This venture is on-going with a new instrument being designed, delivered and used by the orchestra each year for the next 5 years. The Halle uses these instruments in their outreach programme, reaching out to disadvantaged youngsters, prisoners and the disabled. The programme aims to source well-funded, unusual, discipline crossing projects for the apprentices allowing experiences beyond normal training patterns.

The Apprenticeship Management Team intends to work more closely with schools in the Greater Manchester area to raise the profile of this apprenticeship programme with school leavers and increase the number of applicants to the annual intake of new apprentices.

Deserved Recognition

The Technical Apprenticeship programme is a relatively new apprenticeship in the UK but has already evolved considerably. Generated from the ground up by technical managers across the University the original intention to provide a world class, cutting edge programme is well on-track. The Apprenticeship Management Team manages the apprenticeship programme in accordance with national apprenticeship standards, with approved training providers. The programme is adjusted in response to the apprentices’ feedback and achievements, and also to sector demands. Earlier this year the Technical Apprenticeship Programme achieved recognition when it was awarded the Apprenticeships 4 England Bronze award.


Academic Perspective: Dr Natalie Gardiner

Director of Social Responsibility, School of Medical Science
Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

I started work at the University back in 2002 as a postdoctoral research associate with David Tomlinson, Charles Streuli and Paul Fernyhough and have been here ever since. My research and academic life has made much easier due to the support and input from many of the technical staff across the faculty and university.

The expertise of dedicated staff in the University’s BSF facility, advice on health and safety, help with lab inductions, training me how to use new lab techniques and the experimental support from talented research technicians has been invaluable. Teaching undergraduate lab classes or running school engagement activities is much less daunting knowing you have the support of the great team in the teaching labs. Their careful preparation and efficiency ensures these busy days run smoothly.

In my role as Director for Social Responsibility in the School of Medical Sciences I am keen to increase our connections with our neighbouring schools and communities and to highlight the critical role that our technical staff play in all aspects of the University – teaching, research and operations.

Recently, I arranged a visit of a team of technical staff to talk to a group of Yr12/13 students at Trinity High School, which was very well-received by the teachers and students. The students greatly enjoyed the opportunity to hear directly from University staff about the variety of roles at the university, hearing directly about their jobs and personal career pathways was inspirational. Student comments included “I liked having the apprenticeship program explained to me, because I didn’t know about it”, “It was good to hear your journeys and what you have done to get to where you are now in your careers” and “it was reassuring to hear the range of options that BTEC qualifications can give you to get into uni“.  I think the University staff enjoyed the experience too! – if anyone would like to volunteer to take part in similar future events please do let me know.