Posted by on 06 November 2019

Georgina Morris, Laboratory Technician, Exeter Sequencing Service (Level 3 Laboratory Technician Apprenticeship)

Tell us a bit about yourself

I left secondary school in 2007 with GCSE’s and left my part-time job as a Waitress for a full-time role as a Laboratory Technician within a busy food laboratory.

At the time, I preferred working and I wasn’t sure which career path I wanted to take, so I didn’t continue with Higher Education.

A few years later, the laboratory closed whilst I was on maternity leave so I had to seek alternative employment. This included working in a call centre and as a personal housekeeper because they were flexible and I could work the hours that were suitable for me.

What made you decide to do an apprenticeship at the University of Exeter?

I was unhappy within my job as it wasn’t something I enjoyed doing. I saw an advert for a Laboratory Technician Apprenticeship at the University of Exeter and thought it would be a perfect stepping stone for gaining the experience and knowledge needed to pursue a career in the scientific industry.

I had previously looked into Higher Education, however, I needed an income to afford childcare which wasn’t financially possible.

Can you give us an idea of a typical day?

No two days are the same. I have numerous responsibilities for working for the Sequencing Department. Some of these responsibilities include:

  • Checking sample quality.
  • Preparing samples by following Standard Operating Procedures.
  • Recording workflow and data in lab books, and using SharePoint and LIMS software.
  • Analysing data and troubleshooting erroneous results.
  • Mathematical skills e.g. calculating sample volumes and input concentrations for sequencing, interpreting figures from standard curves and consumable costings.
  • Ordering and collecting stock.
  • Preparing and running samples on our sequencing machines.
  • Supporting staff and students by training them to use the equipment. Showing sample preparations and assistance troubleshooting.
  • Maintaining and operating machinery.

How do you balance studying whilst working at the same time?

I had the support of my manager and colleagues. When there were quiet periods I was able to do some research or assignments, and I was often allocated extra time to work on my portfolio.

There was also some free time in between lessons at South Devon College to study and write up assignments.

What is the best thing about being an apprentice?

The best thing about being an apprentice is gaining the hands-on experience that you would not get from studying alone, and getting a qualification whilst being paid.

Most people are under the impression that apprenticeships are for 16 to 19-year-olds, when in fact they are for all age groups.

The apprentice salary has also recently increased at the University meaning that their pay is brought more in line with regular staff and they will earn at least the Real Living Wage.

This means that apprenticeships are more desirable for over 19’s, in particular for people like me that have children and wanted to return to education yet also have a stable income.

How have you put into practice what you have learnt on your apprenticeship?

I have been able to apply my knowledge gained through working at the University to my College work/assignments and vice versa.

One of the units I studied was Genetics. I was already familiar with some of the criteria because I had already undertaken some of the practical work regularly.

Some knowledge and skills I gained at college have also helped me to perform tasks within my job role. In particular; equipment calibration and practical laboratory techniques, which has provided me with the knowledge to be able to perform some tasks without assistance.

How are you supported by your team? 

I have had great support from my team. They have allowed me time to complete assignments, and revise for exams when I have been behind, they shadow and answer any questions I have when undertaking a new task.

I have also been given extra responsibilities to build up my confidence and to expand my skills and knowledge.

Why should someone consider doing an apprenticeship at the University of Exeter?

You gain far more knowledge and skills when studying and working at the same time. The work experience you gain makes you more desirable to future employers, and you earn whilst you learn. The University has a very competitive salary for Apprentices which is nearly equal the salary of permanent employers working in the same grade.

For most Apprenticeships that start at Level 2/3, there is an opportunity to progress to a higher level, meaning you could potentially study a degree, whilst not having to pay back any student loans.

You get a feel for the work that is involved in a particular industry. I know many people that have spent years studying and realise that in reality, they don’t enjoy the practical aspect of what they have spent years studying for. Being an Apprentice can help determine the right career path for you and once completed, can set you up with a career for life.


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