A national pilot has launched in time for National Apprenticeships Week (5-11 February 2024) to kick-start investment into Physics Technical Apprentices within UK higher education and research.
National data has identified that the UK higher education sector has an aging technical workforce within the physics discipline. HESA data shows 45% of technicians supporting physics research and teaching activities within UK universities are aged 51 or over*, threatening the future of technical skills required to meeting demand from emerging sectors.
To tackle this, the UK Institute for Technical Skills and Strategy is launching a new pilot project that will provide salary contribution grants to UK universities and research institutions from a national fund of £200,000 for a total of ten new Physics Technical Apprentices.
Supported by the Institute of Physics and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), this new scheme accelerates investment into new technical talent within the physics discipline to help bridge the aging workforce gap.
Dr Kelly Vere MBE, Director of the UK Institute for Technical Skills and Strategy (ITSS) said:
“We know that physics is a discipline experiencing a significant lack of workforce diversity and an aging population. Technical professionals play a crucial role in delivering world-class research, innovation and education UK-wide, so it’s vital we find ways to kick-start a new pipeline of technicians stepping into these critical roles.
“This pilot project will help to accelerate the number of technical apprentices being recruited into physics apprentice positions, bridging the skills gap within this discipline and creating a more sustainable technical workforce.
“Boosting the number of Physics Technical Apprentices will give young professionals the right skills and expertise to have a fulfilling technical career in science whilst supporting UK institutions with recruitment and retention of staff.”
Louis Barson, Director of Science, Innovation and Skills, from the Institute of Physics (IOP) also commented.
“IOP was the first Supporter of the Technician Commitment, and we are proud to be working with the UK Institute for Technical Skills and Strategy to deliver this new national pilot. Apprenticeships are a rewarding career pathway and provide a practical solution to helping to close the skills gap – not least in the physics-powered businesses responsible for 11% of GDP, and 10% of employment.
“This pilot will start to tackle some of the barriers identified in our Solving Skills report – and ultimately increase the numbers and diversity of people joining this fulfilling and vital career path.”
Dr Luke Davis, Joint Head of Research Infrastructure at EPSRC also commented.
“This new scheme accelerates investment into new technical talent within physics to help bridge the aging workforce gap in this discipline. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will work with ITSS to ensure it is a success.”
For more information about the funding call visit https://itss.org.uk/investment-in-technical-talent/.
The 2024 funding call closes at 5pm 1 March 2024.
Notes to editors:
*Technical workforce data from HESA 2017/18 published in STEMM-CHANGE Equality Diversity Inclusion: A Technician Lens Report
About the UK Institute for Technical Skills and Strategy
The UK Institute for Technical Skills and Strategy is funded by Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation. It was established on 1 August 2023. The Institute is the UK’s advocate for the technical community, accelerating technical skills and careers in higher education, research and innovation through insights, influence, innovation and integration. The Institute is home of the Technician Commitment. Find out more at https://www.techniciancommitment.org.uk/
The Institute of Physics (IOP)
The Institute of Physics (IOP) is the professional body and learned society for physics in the UK and Ireland. It seeks to raise public awareness and understanding of physics, inspire people to develop their knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of physics and support the development of a diverse and inclusive physics community. As a charity, it has a mission to ensure that physics delivers on its exceptional potential to benefit society.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the main funding body for engineering and physical sciences research in the UK. Our portfolio covers a vast range of fields from digital technologies to clean energy, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. EPSRC invests in world-leading research and skills, advancing knowledge and delivering a sustainable, resilient and prosperous UK. We support new ideas and transformative technologies which are the foundations of innovation, improving our economy, environment and society. Working in partnership and co-investing with industry, we deliver against national and global priorities.