Q&A with our audit team

Operations Manager and Skills Audit Officer Jared Carnie, and Survey Officer Jake Green, answer frequently asked questions we get about running our Skills Audit at a university.

How does the process start?

Once an institution reaches out to express an interest in running the audit, we usually arrange a video conference between the NTDC Audit team and the staff at the institution looking to run the Audit. This helps the NTDC Audit team gain an understanding of the current situation at the institution, and gives the institution a greater sense of what the audit process involves.

Quite often, we are approached by higher education institutions (HEIs) who are working to support their technical communities or services, so this initial meeting also helps gauge how we can aid your plans and fit the audit in with their broader goals. If the HEI then commits to the audit, we then have a scoping meeting where costs and timelines are discussed and agreed.

What’s the difference between the audit and the survey?

The skills audit is the whole process, of which the survey is a part. The entire audit process involves the planning and the engagement strategy prior to running the survey, as well as the reporting and the resulting follow-up activities after the survey has closed.

The survey refers to the online questionnaire. This is hosted on Qualtrics, a secure and well-respected online survey platform.

How quickly do universities start running the audit?

The key thing with running the audit is the communication with technicians before the survey goes live. Getting this right ensures that technical staff understand why the survey is being run, what the data they provide will be used for, and what the potential outcomes will be.

This means that while the audit process can begin quickly after an institution begins working with the NTDC, the optimal date for launching the survey itself will depend on a number of different factors, such as the current context at an institution and their plans for the upcoming year. This is why we encourage institutions to get in touch as early as possible so we can work out the best time to run the audit for everyone involved.

How long does the survey run for?

While the audit process as a whole varies, we tend to recommend the survey is kept live for three to four weeks to allow technicians the best opportunity to complete it. The survey saves a technician’s responses as they go, so they can leave the survey and return to it at any point during this period.

Can universities ‘have’ the survey?

It’s a question we get asked a lot! Every institution runs their own unique version of the survey that has been tailored to their local needs by the NTDC Audit team. There’s no off-the-shelf survey we offer.

The survey works best as part of a cohesive audit process and this requires the expertise and knowledge of NTDC staff.

What is the rest of the process, and how do you help universities through this?

The NTDC Audit team will guide you through the audit process.

This includes:

We’re always available for any support a university may need throughout the entire process, whether that’s via email, phone, video chats or in person meetings.

What are the major benefits of running the audit?

There are a whole number of benefits that come from running the audit. For your individual technicians, it is a chance to carry out some reflective CPD activity, and make their institution aware of their training and development needs. 

For an institution, the audit allows you to identify upcoming technical skills gaps, unused technical expertise, and areas of support and development that your technical workforce might benefit from. 

The entire process also helps by raising the visibility and recognition of technicians, as well as identifying development needs, which supports career development in such a way that allows you to plan the future sustainability of your technical workforce.

Read an overview of the benefits Reading University found from running the audit.

What is the key to making the audit successful?

Communication with the wider technical workforce. You need to be clear why you are undertaking the audit and what you plan to do with the data collected. This needs to be communicated clearly to your technicians as the success of the audit process depends on the level of engagement with the survey.

What are your tips for increasing engagement with the audit?

Sessions with food always draw a crowd! Other universities have had a prize draw with a number of vouchers available for those that complete the survey.

The central element of good engagement with the survey is transparency and positive communication. If your technical workforce know why the audit is happening, and what is likely to happen after, the chances of them completing it are high. Having clear channels of communication, through staff websites, forums and Twitter, for example, makes a huge difference to both raising awareness about the survey and generating engagement with it.

If an institution is interested in running the audit, what should they do next?

Contact us - we look forward to hearing from you.