4th March 2019
Chantelle Lawrence progressed from Level 2 to Level 3 at York College and is now studying an apprenticeship, training to be a Laboratory Technician at the National STEM Learning Centre.
Chantelle was inspired and fascinated by science at school, but did not think she could pursue a career in the subject. She says: "My target grade for GCSE double award science was CC, and I was under the impression I would have to go on to university and get a degree to follow this path, I wasn’t aware of the role of a lab technician in education or industry."
On leaving Huntington School with 10 GCSE’s, Chantelle went straight into catering. Aged 18, she applied for a job at the National Stem Learning Centre working as a member of the catering team. After six years she wanted a career change but was unsure of what she wanted to do. Chantelle only knew she wanted a ‘hands on’ job role. National STEM Centre Lab Manager, Helen Rose, suggested she joined her team a couple of hours a week, to gain some experience and find out what the role of a lab technician involved. Chantelle says: "It became clear that many of the skills gained during my time in catering were also useful and valuable to a lab team e.g. communication, organisation and time management. Later that year, when a position became available for an apprentice laboratory technician at the Centre, I applied for the role with several years’ experience of the company - I knew I had confidence in my own ability to do the job."
Chantelle's main duties are preparing and clearing away equipment for learning activities, The activities can focus on; Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths, Computing, D&T, Textiles, Food Technology and Engineering. She also provides technical support for all of these subjects through a range of key stages, from early years, all the way through to A Level. Her important daily tasks involve cleaning and maintaining lab equipment, along with caring for the animals (fish, brine shrimps, moths and woodlice). She explains: "There is also a rooftop greenhouse at the Centre which is home to a range of interesting and beautiful plants, two ponds, and a wormery. This takes a lot of caring for, particularly in the spring and summer months. The role of a laboratory technician is extremely varied, one morning I could be making a representation of Roman and Viking faeces for primary science, using homemade play dough and different pips, seeds and animal bones, and the same afternoon I could be preparing accurate chemical solutions for A-level experiments using hazardous/dangerous chemicals."
Chantelle admits to being apprehensive about starting an apprenticeship at the age of 26: She says: "I soon realised my age really didn’t matter as my classmates doing the same apprenticeship have similar job roles, and there is also a huge overlap of interests within the group. My attendance at York College enables me to share ideas, alternative procedures and equipment with other technicians and tutors, and I gain subject knowledge which is crucial for my ability to do the job. I really enjoy practical sessions at College, learning the science behind the experiments. I am able to go back to work and set up an experiment with an understanding of how the equipment will be used during the learning activity, and what the result is supposed to show."
Chantelle finds her York College Assessor to be both supportive and knowledgeable: "He visits me in the workplace to observe me carrying out daily duties, it is not a test and there is no pressure or stress involved, it is simply to ensure I am following the correct procedures, able to work safely, and gain/display valuable laboratory skills and knowledge."
The Applied Science apprenticeship has opened many doors for Chantelle. Part of her job role is to train to become a facilitator, and begin presenting on some of the in-house courses at the Centre, aimed specifically at technicians. Her apprenticeship will be completed this year, which will allow her to start enquiring about further education. She says: "I could seek out training to become a senior laboratory technician, apply for a job in industry, or look into the qualifications required to get involved in scientific research."
Helen Rose, Laboratory Manager at the National STEM Learning Centre says the STEM Learning Cebtre receives huge benefits by employing apprentices: "The business is able to train and maintain a talent pipeline for hard to fill roles. Not only do our apprentices receive excellent on the job and college training but our wider staff get the opportunity to progress their own skills in mentoring, coaching and supervision. In addition, we learn from our apprentices by harnessing their creativity and thirst for knowledge. There are as many benefits for STEM Learning, as there is for the apprentice.
Chantelle’s work at York College has certainly underpinned her training at the Centre, which will result in her being promoted to a Laboratory Technician once she has completed her course. She will be presenting on technicians courses when she has received more ‘in-house’ training. Chantelle is becoming a valued member of the laboratory staff and I am sure she will go far at the National STEM Learning Centre.“
During National Apprenticeship Week and National Careers Week, we’re hosting our first ever Employment Marketplace. This free event, at the College’s Sim Balk Lane campus, on Tuesday 5th March (between 3.00pm - 7.30pm) is open to local employers as well as students looking to take their next steps and to those looking for employment opportunities with local businesses in and around the city.