£15m career training scheme to extend to research staff

August 31, 2007

UK GRAD gets boost to include university staff as well as postgrads on its programme. Louise Radnofsky reports

Research staff will be included alongside postgraduate researchers in a new £15 million skills and career development training programme.

The next five-year UK GRAD Programme will start next year with a budget Pounds 3 million higher than the £12 million provided for the current scheme (2002-07), which has provided training for postgraduate researchers in areas such as personal effectiveness, career management and leadership.

Under the programme, funded by the research councils, postgraduates are given help to communicate with a research team or supervisor, define clear goals, identify steps to progress with a project and manage funding.

Enterprise and innovation are also receiving more emphasis via training in how to think creatively, take risks, make the most of resources, network and generate enthusiasm for ideas.

The next programme will help universities offer the same skills development to research staff, said Janet Metcalfe, director of UK GRAD.

Research staff will be able to take part in courses, self-reflective programmes, skills assessment exercises and mentoring.

"I think we've actually been very good at training researchers to do research," Dr Metcalfe said. "I don't think we've been quite as good at training researchers to be aware of their skills and competencies and giving them the skills to manage their careers and maximise their own potential."

This was crucial for research staff, especially people who might go on to jobs outside of academia, she said.

"I think there's a particular issue with research staff, in that the majority of them go into research staff positions because they intend to become an academic, and that is only an option for a small proportion of people," Dr Metcalfe said.

"It's really important to give them an understanding of the competencies they have and the opportunities that are open to them in other areas."

The contract for the new initiative was won by Crac: The Career Development Organisation, an independent charitable organisation that currently provides UK GRAD's training programme for postgraduate researchers.

Ellen Pearce, head of researcher development at Crac, said that the focus on research staff mirrored a greater attention to their needs from universities.

"I think it's been a natural progression of the agenda," she said. "This is really a reflection of their growing importance."

The new initiative, which is yet to be named, will be launched next September.

Ms Pearce suggested some useful questions for researchers to ask themselves about their careers, such as: How is your performance judged, and what kind of recognition is important to you? How will your work make a difference, and is this important to you?

Others were: Is your current role working? What is stopping you living your dream?

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