Case study: Apprentice Laboratory Technician – Oliver Johnson

By 24th October 2022 November 1st, 2022 Blog

Oliver Johnson is a Level 3 Apprentice Laboratory Technician at Sheffield Hallam University. We spoke to Oliver about their Technical Apprenticeship.

“The main reason I chose an apprenticeship was that I was not fully sure on whether I wanted to go to university. I didn’t think I was quite ready and didn’t want to leave home to study the course I wanted to do. I then thought that working whilst learning would be a fantastic option for me as I like learning through a practical experience and find it easier to take in more information when doing so. By doing this I would acquire invaluable experience in a professional scientific field which would enhance my employability when looking for a job. I also wanted to get some cash in my pocket while learning so I could do things outside of work in my free time.

“Before my apprenticeship I completed my GCSE’s and then went on to study level 3 BTEC in applied science with a view to go on to study marine biology as this was my dream. I was 18 nearly 19 when I applied for my apprenticeship.

“The main thing I have gained from my apprenticeship is practical experience and knowledge in scientific laboratory – my area of interest. I understand how the university runs as a large organisation and how scientific equipment works that I would never have used until getting a job. This gives me much greater insight to work, giving me the extra edge when applying to a new job.

“An apprenticeship is much more practically focused and is more about developing your knowledge and workplace specific skills, whereas A- levels are more about teaching you about a particular topic so you understand the knowledge about jobs you are interested in, but you don’t experience the job firsthand. When an employer hires you, they need to know you can carry out the tasks that are part of the job.

“I now work for Sheffield Hallam University in the biological and chemical sciences. My role includes stock checking, material preparation, equipment maintenance, practical setup, cell culture setup and cell line care, chemical and reagent inspections and more. There are three main times in my job:

  • Teaching, where all the students including foundation, undergraduate, final year and masters perform all their set practicals. We set them up and run them alongside academic staff who teach the practical session.
  • Undergraduate and masters’ projects, where students select/create their own personal project and perform a series of experiments to get data and then write it up. During projects we provide direct support to the students, which could include helping them with calculations or helping them run experiments.
  • General equipment maintenance and stock checking which includes things such as spectrometer maintenance, centrifuge maintenance, pipette maintenance and general stock control of chemicals and reagents.

“After my apprenticeship I hope to be either in a full-time job or be going to study marine biology at university. I have booked to go to some university open days to get some information that should help me make a decision!”