Good laboratory skills are a prerequisite for many entry-level jobs in the science and biotechnology sector, but according to some employers those skills can be hard to find. Training providers, including universities, have shouldered part of the blame for offering science courses that provide students with little first-hand experience of laboratory work or knowledge of laboratory practices and regulations.
Victorian biopharmaceutical company Sypharma, which relies on production operators for pharmaceutical manufacturing and compounding, laboratory technicians and quality assurance control professionals, prefers the work-ready graduates of vocational and higher education provider Box Hill Institute to some university graduates.
The TAFE institute's biotechnology program produces professionals with good practical experience, Says Sypharma's managing director Jeremy White. ''Graduates of Box Hill Institute come with ready-to-work skills, a desire to learn and a desire to work,'' he says.
''We have taken six on a part time basis as part of their course, and taken four on full time. They are employed in our quality assurance and quality control group, performing laboratory testing and sterile production, and performing and managing validation.
''They really learn a lot here and it is in part because they come to us hungry to learn and with a good skill set that enables them to understand quickly what is required of them.''
Box Hill Institute's science and biotechnology courses include a bachelor's degree in biotechnology and innovation, a diploma of laboratory technology and a certificate III in science. The latter two courses articulate into the bachelor's degree.
The diploma of laboratory technology was driven largely by industry's need for graduates who are ''savvy in the lab'', according to Box Hill Institute's centre manager for the biotechnology and animal sciences programs, Susan Maastricht.
''There are so many people who graduate with a degree in science, but one of the things that the biotech industry says is : it's all very well to have a science degree, but if you can't walk into a lab and be functional from day one, then that means we have six months of training to do,'' she says.
''They get lots of practical skills. They can walk into any of these labs and say, 'I can run this piece of equipment; I can run a PCR [polymerase chain reaction machine, also known as a thermal cycler] for you; I can run a real-time PCR; I can do that analysis for you; and I can look for toxins in that','' Maastricht says. ''Our students come out being able to do it, not just knowing the theory of it.''
''We teach them about regulations and about entrepreneurship, and how to build strength in the business you are moving into because that's what the biotechnology sector needs,'' according to Maastricht.
TAFE institutes such as Box Hill, she says, are well placed to provide students with practical skills because of their close working relationships with industry and work-placement programs, their state-of-the-art laboratory facilities and technical equipment, and their small class sizes.
''We know the university sector struggles with the costs associated with laboratory work, and to that end most of it is done in a student's [final] honours year. ''Many kids also find the scale of the university experience daunting. The experience here is quite unique because we know each student.'' Graduates of the course are equipped to work in a range of laboratories, including pathology, diagnostic and research labs, and can expect starting salaries of about $40,000-plus.
Source: The Australian Saturday, October 29, 2011
In order to make these programs more accessible to Sri Lankan students, International Institute of Health Sciences (www.iihsciences.com) which is an extended campus of Box Hill Institute has initiated a pathway programme together with the BOX HILL Institute of Australia.
This programme enables students to obtain a Diploma and then an Associate Degree and finally to step into a Bachelor of Biotechnology & Innovation.
The students have the option of completing the 1st year in Sri Lanka at IIHS and to transfering to Australia to complete the Diploma in the 2nd year. With another year of studies they could complete the Associate Degree and with one more year they get the Bachelor of Biotechnology & Innovation.
The advantages of completing one year at IIHS is that it saves you about 10 lakhs on course fee and about 18 lakhs as living expenses, it guarantees your entry in to the 2nd year at BOX HILL TAFE, and most importantly you get industry placements in both countries, during the 1st year in Sri Lanka and also during the second year at BOX HILL TAFE, which gives you a greater employability and exposure.
Registrations are now on for a limited number of seats. Contact IIHS on 0114 65 11 44 / 0774 14 23 98 / 0773 11 43 81 or visit us at 704, Negombo Rd, Welisara or our website: www.iihsciences.com