We do encounter some resistance from scientific communities about apprenticeships. There seems to be an 80’s legacy misconception that apprentices aren’t smart enough to stay in school and an apprenticeship is their only option. This dated view is nothing but damaging not only to apprentices but to the laboratories and companies missing out on this wealth of burgeoning talent.
Laboratories are very regulated environments, and we must dispel the myth that only graduates and PHD students can work in one. Of course, researchers in the life sciences require degree level understanding of the sciences. However, a lot of technician/laboratory roles do not. Laboratory technicians need to be process-minded, detail-oriented, and capable of following simple and complex methodologies and procedures. This type of work is not always suited to degree or PHD students who may seek other challenges long-term or are not suited for a technician’s role. This mismatch has resulted in companies struggling to retain graduate technicians.
We know that the most successful laboratory technician apprentices enjoy repetition, process and methodology, it is a different temperament from someone more creative. It is not always the most glamourous of roles but there is an under-appreciated value in those that complete these types of roles and a chronic shortage of trained technicians.
A recent Gatsby Institute report (Technicians And Innovation: A Literature Review June 2019) reveals some important findings in regards to graduates vs trained technicians in its executive summary.
“Technicians make significant contributions to innovation. Perhaps most important of all, they have a critical role to play in enabling firms successfully to exploit new technology. In the UK, however, the critical role played by technicians all too often goes unrecognised.
One of the reasons that technician training has been neglected is that an over-supply of graduates has masked technician shortages, but these graduates are unlikely to have the practical experience and skills which are so critical to the technician role.”
Our clients are often quite shocked at how quickly apprentices become competent and independent and begin to add value to their businesses.
Concerns over age are also a factor when it comes to apprentices, employers worry they will be too young and some apprentices worry they will be too old as in our business the average age for a lab tech apprentice is around 19.
We want to re-educate the scientific community that offering Laboratory Technician apprenticeships will enable them to create a sustainable source of technicians who are competent, professional, and well suited to the roles. It’s a win-win for the employers, apprentices and communities that will benefit from the innovations and developments in the years to come.