Getting practical in Science, Engineering or Technology
The word Technician may bring to mind the image of someone in a white lab coat, helping set up practical work in school Science lessons, but the roles now covered by this term span a range of sectors and specialist skills.
Around two million people are employed in the UK as Technicians and Skilled Operatives, playing a vital role in the UK economy. Technicians are responsible for areas such as operating and maintaining laboratory instruments; monitoring experiments; solving problems and helping invent and improve products and processes.
Types of Technician
There are many different types of Technician, and the following examples illustrate the wide range of roles available.
Telecommunications Technicians enable, maintain and operate a wide range of complex communication systems and Computer Technicians test, install, and maintain computer and IT systems and networks.
There a number of technician roles in healthcare: Pharmacy Technicians are involved in the supply of medicines; Dental Technicians make dentures, crowns, bridges and braces; and Prosthetic Technicians make artificial limbs.
Architectural Technicians specialise in the application of technology to architecture, building design and construction, whilst CAD (Computer Aided Design) Technicians use software to create plans for buildings and machinery. Building Services Technicians install and maintain facilities in buildings.
Engineering Technicians contribute to the design, manufacture, and operation or maintenance of products, equipment, or processes. Aircraft Technicians maintain aircraft, their engines and related mechanical systems, whilst Electrical Technicians install, test and maintain the electrical components of signs and displays.
In manufacturing, Quality Assurance Technicians ensure that manufactured products meet company and customer quality specifications and Process Technicians are involved in the manufacture of products and chemicals.
There is no single Science technician role. Science Technicians undertake a wide range of jobs at different levels, commanding different salaries and assuming varying levels of supervisory and managerial responsibility. For some, a technician role is an aspiration, while for others it represents a rung on the career ladder to higher scientific or managerial roles.
A bright future?
Technicians look set to remain in demand. Organisations such as the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) have identified the shortage of Technicians, and a 2010 UK Commission for Employment and Skills audit recognised a rising demand for associate professional and technical roles in a broad range of sectors.
The audit suggests that large numbers of Technicians will be required particularly in the manufacturing and process sectors, including oil, gas, electricity, chemicals, life sciences and pharmaceuticals, automotive, engineering, and broadcasting. The pace of technological development and the trend towards more high-end manufacturing is creating a growing demand for Technicians and higher levels of technical skill in the workforce.
The Technician Council estimates 450,000 job opportunities will be created by 2020, requiring these higher skill levels. Similarly, employers have an on-going need for staff with professional technical skills to keep pace with international competition.
Professional registration is a way of recognising common standards for transferable skills. There are currently different technician registration schemes in Science, Engineering and IT, and work is underway to create a technician registration framework across all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) sectors.
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