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Do we have the right technical skills?

The JNCC Technical Skills Framework – a strategic approach to training


Tools for silk weaving -- a specialist skill that requires appropriate training Image: CC-BY McKay Savage/Flickr

The majority of staff at the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) are scientists. We also have a dedicated technical development team but how do we know that we have the right mix and level of technical skills to be effective, now and into the future? The implicit assumption is that we do or, if not, we ‘upskill’ or find a way to recruit those with the skills we require.

To be able to actually answer that question what we really needed was a comprehensive audit. Our successful pilot involved an organisation-wide approach aimed at setting a consistent structure for assessing current and future skills and coordinating training thereby increasing efficiency. So how did we do it, what did we find out and how might we improve it?

How did we do it - the key steps:

  • Create a framework – the broad themes key to our work, both present and future, were identified and definitions of competency for four skill levels were produced.
  • Audit skills according to the framework – all staff, both technical and non-technical were invited to take part and clear guidance was provided.

What did we find – key points:

  • All staff were invited (not mandated) to take part in the audit and the response rate was very high (individuals could clearly see the merit)
  • High levels of interest in technical training across the organisation: 85% of responders are aiming to raise their current level of expertise in at least one of the technical strands. There was aspiration to improve skills within all eight broad themes.
  • The coordinated approach has already created opportunities such as the formation of organisation-wide user groups for skill sharing and the provision of internal training sessions led by existing staff.


This diagram summarises, for all JNCC staff, current skill levels and staff aspirations for each of the eight themes. The scale is the number of individuals multiplied by the score for each skill level: 1, 2, 5 and 10 which take into account the levels are not linear. Visualisation of this nature is useful in order to target training where the gap is biggest.

 So, what’s next?

This has proved to be an invaluable exercise providing the most comprehensive picture to date of JNCC’s collective technical expertise and aspirations. The next steps are:

  • Integrate with other skills frameworks -– other frameworks exist (eg. Cabinet Office) though not all include stepped progression. We want to explore how these can be best integrated.
  • Embed the review as part of the annual assessment – ensure individuals review their skills as part of annual appraisal and continue to use this to inform training and development plans for the year.
  • Better visualisation for individuals - to encourage participation we will allow individuals to visualise their skills relative to peers.

Have you run a technical skills audit? Have you got any tips or suggestions? Or perhaps you’d like to run one and have a few questions. Please get in touch at

 Additional information

JNCC Technical Skills Framework

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