Urgent action needed to avert school technician recruitment crisis

Low pay, heavy workloads and a lack of appreciation are why schools and colleges are struggling to attract technicians

Schools and colleges will face a shortage of skilled support staff unless urgent action is taken to address low pay and morale among technicians, warns a new report released today by UNISON.

A survey of more than 3,000 school and college technicians found the majority are over 50, earn below the national average wage and do not think the public or politicians understand what they do.

The survey by Preproom, which provides science resources for schools, found over half of technicians (51%) are 51 or above, with around one in six (17%) aged over 60. And with fewer than one in 10 (9%) under 30, the data suggests schools and colleges face a recruitment crisis.

UNISON says low pay, heavy workloads and a lack of appreciation are reasons why schools and colleges are struggling to attract the next generation of technicians.

The survey found in excess of a third (38%) are doing extra unpaid work every week, but their efforts are likely to be underappreciated. More than two-thirds of technicians said they did not think their work was understood at all by the government (71%), nor the public (68%). Over a quarter (27%) felt their role was not understood at all by their employer.

To highlight, and better understand, the work technicians do, UNISON and Preproom have teamed up to launch #techognition day. The event is a chance for technicians to celebrate and show off what they do.

Technicians are encouraged to upload photos on social media – with the hashtag #techognition – highlighting the variety of work they do. From scientists setting up experiments to artists aiding students in their latest creation, the day aims to shine a light on the invaluable efforts of support staff.

It is also an opportunity to encourage more schools and colleges to apply for the Technical Champions quality mark, which is awarded to institutions that demonstrate support for technicians.

Preproom director Chris Galvin said: “We know that technicians struggle with low pay, heavy workloads and limited career progression. However, this survey suggests the situation is even worse than we thought.

“Technicians regularly take on extra unpaid tasks, which is not good for their wellbeing. Things are not helped by too many school leaders failing to fully understand what their technicians do, which has to change.”

UNISON education officer Joanna Parry said: “Technicians play an essential role in school life, yet their work is clearly not appreciated. This survey paints a worrying picture of a low-paid, ageing and undervalued workforce.

“It’s never been more important to promote the amazing work technicians do through initiatives like #techognition day. Ministers need to better understand the work they and all the staff in our schools do.

“Improved pay and conditions are needed if we are to tackle the recruitment issues across education.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Dan Ashley M: 07908 672893 E: d.ashley@unison.co.uk
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk