Historically, lab assistants may have been those who came in and helped teachers wash up after class.
Today, the role is technically demanding and requires higher qualifications.
If the role is fulfilled by those without appropriate qualifications it could be a safety issue.
This is the belief of Karen Mellenbergh, a lab technician at Catherine McAuley College Westmead and Vice Chairperson of the Association of Science Education Technicians in NSW (ASET NSW inc).
Karen attended the IEU’s Support Staff Conference Work Well.
“It is our goal to raise the profile of science technicians,” Karen said.
“Over the years this position has changed dramatically. Lab technicians are now normally the chemical officers on site, doing all the chemical preparation and management, but employers are still employing people from the front office or the library or anywhere else into the role and thinking that’s okay.
“Employing people with no science background is happening across schools, although more in the government than the Catholic and independent sectors.
“I speak to people at events and the questions I get asked show me people don’t understand what they are doing and they are worried because they don’t understand what they are doing.
“There’s a lack of understanding about the need to get properly trained people into these jobs, but it is also difficult to get people at the salaries being offered.
“Until we raise the profile of the position and regard it as a profession then the qualified staff won’t apply for the job.”