As part of my sixth form, one had to undergo one weeks worth of work experience. Each student is responsible for finding and organising their own placement and the sixth form will simply review it to check that it is appropriate. For my work experience I am doing a placement at a local private school in their science prep room, where I am working as a Laboratory Technician. This is my experience and how I got on:
On arrival I was given huge amounts of safety information from symbols on chemicals, to fire doors and first aid kits. Once I started working I did a huge amount of manual work from sorting through the post, unboxing, moving textbooks between classes, sorting textbooks into piles and unloading the dishwasher. The work was tough and required a lot of heavy lifting, I struggled to life boxes of paper onto a high shelf. I did a little lab work, which involved making a simple solution. I also had to read through some rather boring risk assessments and old folders. To be honest I found it quite awkward a lot of the time, I did not know what to say to people! I also felt that I was a bit in the way or a bit of an ‘inconvenience’ so to speak. For example I felt that the technician had “proper” work to be doing and needed to make some chemicals that I was unable to do as I am obviously not qualified. At one point I was thinking “I wanna go home!” I guess I just felt out of place, like I shouldn’t be there.
I was dreading my second day, but it was not actually too bad. I didn’t feel quite as awkward as day 1. However I didn’t do any practical lab work, instead it was all organising and writing things. I had to write a list of all the equipment in some of the class rooms, which involved things such as counting the number of beakers, conical flasks and petri dishes. It meant I was doing something and wasn’t just sat around the lab room feeling totally useless. I had to package the old textbooks that I carried on Day 1 into boxes, label them and tape them. The only time I felt a little awkward was when I had finished the task and the technician had to find me another job to stay occupied. I felt like I needed to engage more and ask questions, but none came to me! At the end of the day I had exhausted the list of jobs that needed doing, which meant I got to “go home” early. The only trouble is my house is a 40 minute car ride away, so I had to spend 30 minutes just standing around and you guessed it feeling awkward!
The textbooks are back! I had to move them into an underground storage facility… it sounds like a secret service mission I know! Once that was done I spent the rest of the day cleaning. Great fun. I had to clean out all sorts of ancient pre-industrial revolution equipment, some of it looked like the type of stuff you would find in an old car boot sale… rather than a science lab. The day wasn’t too awful, it was hot..but not too awkward. But nothing really lab based, we didn’t mix any chemicals or burn anything…so a bit of a boring day for the laboratory maverick!
I officially vacated the lab, which I guess takes the lab out of laboratory work experience! Instead I got a general work experience over view, if you like. We went out on a field trip to a nature reserve and saw some wildlife. We looked at aquatic creatures when we went pond dipping and vertebrates in bug catching. Overall the day was slow and boring, apart from your common pond snail and spider, we basically saw nothing! At least I can definitely rule any nature/wildlife/agricultural degree off my options! I like walking through nature and going hiking, canoeing and more active sports. However observing, recording and collecting data about nature isn’t my thing!
My last day was certainly no easy wind down, but instead a chaotic busy day! I reorganised the whole of the labs stationary, I sorted through pens, pencils and permanent markers. Learnt how to use a labelling machine to produce sticky labels and practised my colour coordination when sorting out coloured card. I also did a little bit of physics work involving clamp stands, which I had to set up along with some Newton meters. Then I did some simple tasks such as filling up bottles of distilled water and some paper work. I even had to sort out some computing/programming stuff for a display that was occurring on the weekend. At the end of the day it was odd to finally leave, knowing that I would never come back. I was only there for a week, but it did feel a lot longer! I was rewarded for my work with some chocolate and a card!
Overall I didn’t do as much ‘lab’ work I was hoping to do, however I did do a lot of organisation and tiding up. I learnt how to use a label machine and how to set up a practical demonstration in record breaking time. I practised making a solution, which I did learn to do during my A-level, but it was nice to make it in a larger quantity. The tasks were so varied from helping out with the chemicals to helping with the sound and lighting to going on a field trip.
My first 35 hour week of work, has been a wake up call. The world of work is tough and physically/mentally challenging. From lifting heavy boxes and walking around the countryside to running up stairs. All the way to the small talk, soft skills and trying to not feel awkward!