Enhancing skill development and broadening inclusivity with WorldSkills UK Laboratory Technician Competition

Yasmin Wong
November 29, 2023

Laboratory technicians play a crucial role in creating engaging and effective learning experiences, and recognising their expertise is essential. The WorldSkills UK Lab Technician competition, held annually, provides an opportunity for technicians across the UK to not only showcase their expertise, but also develop and gain new skills. In this article, we reflect on how our collaboration with Middlesex University London, and support for this event, has allowed for widened participation, increased engagement and enhanced the experience for all participants.

Another successful WorldSkills UK Lab Technician Competition in 2023

This year's competition, hosted at University of Manchester, showcased a diverse range of participants demonstrating exceptional practical skills. Attracting early-career individuals from the fields of chemical, biomedical or biological science, the event benefits participants, educators and employers alike. It’s our third year of supporting scientific skill development at WorldSkills UK, and LearnSci’s resources have played a crucial role in the process, allowing for enhanced inclusivity.

Entrance to the laboratory for the WorldSkills Laboratory Technician Competition. Large doorway into lab flanked by WorldSkills UK banners.
The WorldSkills UK Laboratory Technician National Finals hosted at University of Manchester

Enhancing the selection process with engaging digital tools

The constraints on UK regional qualifier capacities posed a challenge in expanding participation across the whole country, and an inclusive selection procedure was needed. To address this, the organisers of the competition, Mr Duncan Allardyce and Dr Dirk Wildeboer from Middlesex University London, collaborated with us to integrate LabSims throughout the competition phases.

Reaching even more lab technicians across the UK

The LabSims were embedded alongside theory and quizzes on the LearnSci Direct platform, creating an accessible environment which meant learning principles could be delivered virtually to all participants. Used in key stages throughout the competition, individuals engaged with the content independently, utilising integrated feedback and quiz assessments to build their understanding; something that could not be accommodated with lab-based regional qualifiers alone. Additionally, the platform provided a way to assess applicants' engagement, indicating suitability for progression into the next stage of the competition.

People in a laboratory wearing lab coats completing practical lab experiments at lab tables.
Competitors in the lab displaying their practical lab experience at the National Finals

Boosting confidence and building preparation in core practical lab skills

The LabSims and additional resources offer applicants the opportunity to interact with various practical approaches and understand the accompanying theory. The platform addressed key competition skills, including laboratory preparation, lab safety, experimental procedure and data analysis.

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Positive perceptions and engaged participants

Feedback from the competition organisers highlights that the additional materials provided by LearnSci have been warmly received by competitors. They note the participants have built confidence and felt enthused and informed about upcoming practical tasks. The resources cater to a range of levels - from gaining familiarity in new areas to improving good laboratory practice in routine techniques. The LabSims seemed to have truly engaged the competitors, with the top four finalists also being the most active on the simulations as part of their independent preparation. As well as success at the event, the project championed by Duncan and Dirk received an honourable mention in LearnSci's 2022 Teaching Innovation Awards.

Continuing support and partnerships with WorldSkills UK

The success of the event and creation of an innovative approach with Duncan and Dirk is something our team is very proud to have been part of. We plan to continue supporting the competition in the coming years. Congratulations once again to all the competitors, and to the award winners at this year’s competition - Rebecca Liggett, Kasia Gierek, Dante Senior and Emiliano Trulli. Keep up to date with next year's event by registering your interest on the WorldSkills UK website.

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