Welcome to the March 2023 edition
Written by Keelie Munroe
Published March 2023
WA Members of RACI, welcome to our March Newsletter.
In last month’s President’s Corner, I highlighted some of the ways that chemists have found careers which are both conventional and unconventional. I posted the article on LinkedIn and one of the very first people to “like” the post was Simon Gazia, Managing Director, CEO and co-founder of LTT Group Pty Ltd. While I said it was an incomplete list, it was clear I’d missed a very obvious career path - trainer. I’d suggested that I would love to speak about chemists’ career journeys, and this seemed like an obvious place to begin!
I caught up with Simon in early February at LTT’s facility in Osborne Park. Formerly known as LabTech Training, LTT is a national leader in laboratory operations and pathology collection training. Originally started in 2005 by 3 WA-based chemists, the business has since expanded to offer training across the country, with facilities in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth as well as specialist staff placed in Adelaide and rural Australia.
Simon’s journey started with a keen interest in science from a young age. He began a BSc in Chemistry at UWA in 1991, but the travel bug got him and he took a break to travel. When he returned, like many in WA, he started working in the mines in the obvious position of laboratory technician. Employed by a mine fire assay lab before transitioning back to Perth in an environmental lab, Simon put himself through his laboratory vocational studies at ‘night school’ while working. Recruited by TAFE as a trainer, Simon continued to work and study. Returning to the BSc in Chemistry he’d earmarked to finish, Simon graduated from ECU in 2006 – winning the RACI WA Student Prize at the time.
During his time as a trainer, Simon recognised a real gap in the market. Classroom training was one thing, but he felt there was a missed opportunity with workplace training. Many companies were using untrained staff in their laboratories, without the level of knowledge and practical skills needed to work safely and effectively. Simon began with speaking with the Department of Training and Workforce Development and gained a contract for a trial of 6 trainees through the newly formed LabTech Training. Next stop was finding a partner organisation to give this mission a go. Through his contacts, he settled on one of the local commercial laboratories, who agreed to greenlight 4 of their staff to go through the trial process. Of the several lab technicians employed by the company at the outset of the trial, only the 4 people who went through LTT’s training were still employed in their department at the completion of the course – the proof of concept was in the pudding.
After 18 years in the market, LTT has approximately 90 staff across the country, servicing approximately 2,000 active students. Every client that has signed on for their services continues to be a client to this day. A passion for chemical sciences runs deep in the company, with trained chemists working across the quality, management, and training delivery teams. Now in Perth, there are 4 classroom lab trainers (3 are chemists) and 2 chemists that train in workplace lab settings. Workplace trainers liaise with clients’ lab managers to develop and implement training plans designed to ensure their staff develop the skills and knowledge required to meet lab testing requirements as well as the standards of the nationally recognised qualifications being delivered.
While we always encourage individuals to study chemistry, there is a real need for this type of training opportunity to support our laboratories. Gita Ghorbanian’s story stood out to me - growing up as a member of the persecuted Baha’i faith in Iran, Gita was denied her ambition of studying chemistry at university. As a student with LTT, Gita continued to pursue her passion for chemistry. Within two weeks of commencing her qualification, she received a job offer from Morley Senior High School to begin work as a Laboratory Technical Assistant.
For our qualified chemists with workplace experience, vocational training could be a career option requiring only an additional 12-unit Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, which can be completed flexibly in 6-12 months depending on the training provider.
Thanks again to Simon for taking the time to catch up with me and talk through his journey. If you have a chemistry journey you would like to share, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me at [email protected] or 0400 240 737. Feedback is always welcome.
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