We all know the importance of work experience, especially nowadays when it is getting exceedingly difficult for students to find jobs after college or uni. The competition on the job market is tough, so the more experience you have the better. In some courses you may be lucky enough to have work experience incorporated into your modules (this may seem daunting but trust us – it’s worth it, and a lot better than the boring work experience you did during high school). Although placement can open the eyes of some students to see it isn’t the right path for them, others relish the experience and can’t get enough. Twenty-year-old biomedical science student, Stephanie, tells us about her amazing 12-week placement in the labs at Glasgow Scientific Services (GSS).
Can you tell us a little bit about the company you worked at?
Glasgow Scientific Services (GSS) provides scientific assistance to local authorities, private businesses, and government agencies. They offer services of sampling, analysis, testing, and advice, and are the largest public analyst lab in the UK. There are seven labs, each one focused on a different area of testing, such as radiation monitoring and food quality and safety. The main lab I worked in however was microbiological testing so I was testing and analysing samples from things like drinking water, bathing water and dairy products.
What was a typical day like in the lab?
In microbiological testing, there are many procedures to be carried out on a daily basis, all depending on how much work there is and how many samples have come in. As a student in this lab, I worked a lot on media preparation, water examination procedures, and food examination procedures. Procedures within the lab are constantly being tested and evaluated to have complete confidence that they are working accurately and efficiently. This then supplies faith in the quality of results and assurance to the clients.
Did you enjoy your time at Glasgow Scientific Services?
I absolutely loved being on placement. I was always looking forward to return after every weekend to start working again, and every day I was learning something new – it was always really interesting. I adored every aspect of the experience, and I would happily return to Glasgow Scientific Services. The lab always had a relaxed, fun atmosphere. All of the employees would chat and have a laugh while completing their work which relieved any nerves or concerns I had when first starting.
Did you learn a lot during the 12 weeks?
Yes, definitely, I learned many skills, all of which are transferable to working life following university. I am now more aware of what is expected of me in a workplace, and the behaviour and attitude you need to have when working in a lab. I have been able to not only gain new skills, but expand and develop ones I already had. I feel I am now more competent in lab procedures, and have expanded upon my core skills.
What was the main benefit from your work experience?
As I mentioned before, I learned so much, not only about lab procedures, but about the working environment and what is going to be expected of me after I graduate. Even though we work in labs at university, the experience gave me some insight into the working world whilst allowing me to apply everything I’ve learned throughout uni. Throughout the 12 weeks spent at Glasgow Scientific Services, I have learned, followed, and successfully completed numerous methods and procedures, all in the name of quality control. The experience has allowed me to grow, academically and personally.
What was your favourite part of the experience?
I worked predominately with the members of staff as opposed to working with my supervisor, and everyone was very welcoming and helpful. I was also treated exactly like a normal member of staff which was great. What I most enjoyed was the chance to see an accurate idea and representation of what my future career could be like if I continue on the road I am on. It has given me confirmation of the type of work I wish to do in my life.
Why do you think work experience is important for students?
The opportunity to complete a work placement is an invaluable one, one which provides the chance for personal and academic growth. Having good experience at a relevant workplace looks great to potential employers, especially at a placement which allows for knowledge obtained at university to be put into practice. The placement allowed me to gain new, transferrable skills, and gave me the opportunity to develop skills I already had, even ones as simple as working well in a team were improved and built upon.