In the UK labour market there appears to be a distinct and emerging set of occupations referred to as ‘technologists’.  However, they are not properly recognised as occupations within the UK Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) in the same way as, say, technicians and engineers are recognised.  This means that national statistics (numbers employed, regional numbers, qualification levels, salary bands etc.) are not kept on this emerging group.

Technologist occupations are clearly recognised in the US and Canada.  For example, the US Occupational Network (O*NET) database lists 24 separate technologist occupations across a range of sectors (manufacturing, engineering, health etc.).  Looking at Manufacturing and Engineering, technologist occupations in O*NET tend to be categorised as ‘engineer assist’ roles, perhaps dealing with specific tasks or areas of technology or innovation.  These are contrasted with technician roles which tend to be more operational, being carried out under the direction of engineers.

The following table gives some examples, comparing the occupational description of engineers, technicians and technologists across a small selection of engineering sectors.

Occupation Description
Electrical Engineering Technicians Test or modify developmental or operational electrical machinery or electrical control equipment and circuitry in industrial or commercial plants or laboratories. Usually work under direction of engineers or technologists.
Electrical Engineering Technologists Assist electrical engineers in such activities as process control, electrical power distribution, or instrumentation design. May prepare layouts of electrical transmission or distribution systems, supervise the flow of work, estimate project costs, or participate in research studies.
Electrical Engineers Research, design, develop, test, or supervise the manufacturing and installation of electrical equipment, components, or systems for commercial, industrial, military, or scientific use.
Industrial Engineering Technicians Apply engineering theory and principles to problems of industrial layout or manufacturing production, usually under the direction of engineering staff. May perform time and motion studies on worker operations in a variety of industries for purposes such as establishing standard production rates or improving efficiency.
Industrial Engineering Technologists Assist industrial engineers in such activities as quality control, inventory control, or material flow methods. May conduct statistical studies or analyse production costs.
Industrial Engineers Design, develop, test, and evaluate integrated systems for managing industrial production processes, including human work factors, quality control, inventory control, logistics and material flow, cost analysis, and production coordination.
Mechanical Engineering Technicians Apply theory and principles of mechanical engineering to modify, develop, test, or calibrate machinery and equipment under direction of engineering staff or physical scientists.
Mechanical Engineering Technologists Assist mechanical engineers in such activities as generation, transmission, or use of mechanical or fluid energy. Prepare layouts of machinery or equipment or plan the flow of work. May conduct statistical studies or analyse production costs.
Mechanical Engineers Perform engineering duties in planning and designing tools, engines, machines, and other mechanically functioning equipment. Oversee installation, operation, maintenance, and repair of equipment such as centralized heat, gas, water, and steam systems.

 

Why do we need to understand the roles of Technologists?

Our initial research into technologist roles in the UK indicates that they are widely used in job titles across a range of industries where incumbents play a vital role in development, implementation and improvement of innovative technology, along with tasks related to raising productivity.

Given the uncertainty in how the UK and EU labour markets will operate in the coming years, we believe it is vital that key occupations which drive innovation and productivity are recognised, so that education and training systems at all levels can respond and support their development.

There is also an important link to the Occupational Maps[1] which form a key role in the work of the Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education.  Linking the occupational standards relating to technologist occupations to the emerging T-levels[2] allow us to determine the appropriate entry qualifications required for technologist jobs.

Notes

[1] See https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/about/occupational-maps/

[2] See https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/t-levels/