Schools of any size and budget should consider the lab technician as one way to contribute to the quality of education that teachers can provide to students. A trained technician will add to the Science department in many ways that free up teachers to concentrate on preparing their teaching, making their assessments of students work and collaborating and planning with each other rather than spending time doing the dishes and washing up or making solutions and organizing equipment.
Some essential arguments for having a lab technician include:
- Improved safety for students and teachers. A technician will ensure you have properly working equipment, safely prepared solutions, correctly stored chemicals.
- Improved quality of lab materials which will enable better teaching.
- It allows more efficient use of teacher time. If a teacher spends less time preparing solutions, cleaning up and repairing apparatus they will have more time to support students, mark student work, assessments, and improve the curriculum design.
- Savings in the school budget through proper storage, monitoring and on time purchasing of stock materials.
This is a list of skills which you can expect from a good qualified lab technician.
- Keeping an inventory of science equipment to avoid loss and damage to expensive items
- Keep records of purchases - this would avoid duplication of purchases, over purchasing.
- Keep lab equipment in orderly conditions, putting away and stocking as needed - this is partly safety
- Prepare equipment, solutions and materials in accordance to teacher needs
- Clear the labs of the used and dirty equipment - again a safety issue. If a lab has produced odorous wastes, these need to be disposed of urgently for safety and hygienic reasons.
- Develop systems for identifying where equipment is stored and ensuring that equipment is returned to its proper place - the number of items in a science lab is simply staggering.
- Be able to make solutions correctly from standard lab manuals or special instructions from the teacher - Many countries have a special certification for lab technicians to allow them to work safely. A good chemistry background would be very valuable.
- Maintain basic equipment - correctly cleaning glassware to repairing bunsen burners, things that are used nearly every week need to be cleaned and checked frequently for safe operation. Cleaning microscope lenses to fixing the stage mechanism may be one step higher on the technical scale.
- Properly handle concentrated acid and alkali solutions - this is very important for the safety of the lab technician as well as those who work around the lab.
- Know proper safety procedures - many countries have prescribed rules about fire, chemical spills, radioactive sources, aeration of rooms etc. The lab technician should be one of the watchdogs for safety in the science areas.
- Apply the appropriate disposal procedures for safe handling of biological and organic wastes - various conditions exist around the world. As international schools often have some turnover, teachers new to the country may have trouble learning all the rules as rapidly as is necessary so a good technician is critically important.