The goal of a successful laboratory training program is to create a skilled and adaptable workforce that stays competitive with shifting business priorities and evolving technologies. Lab managers can anticipate future training needs by staying informed of changing safety and regulatory requirements, researching industry trends on the latest technologies, and conducting an organizational skills gap analysis. From there, lab managers can evaluate training and development options to fit their requirements, such as cost and whether to outsource training.
When considering outsourcing, external training is often needed to bring in new skills and knowledge to adapt to emerging technologies or new applications. Finding relevant training requires thorough research from the lab manager to understand the availability of resources and develop a tailored curriculum, which can range from formal course work and technical workshops to supplemental webinars and reading materials. Curriculum topics also vary widely, from technical skills to leadership development. Here, we offer a list of the types of organizations that provide training resources as a starting point for lab managers to explore.
Technical courses may be housed by science departments as part of graduate certificate programs, workshops offered through collaborative research centers, or continuing education through extended learning programs. Institutions are also starting to offer management training for scientists, including professional science master’s degrees and business certifications for postdoctoral researchers. Another growing trend among academia is the offering of massive open online courses that are free and available for anyone to enroll.
When considering outsourcing, external training is often needed to bring in new skills and knowledge to adapt to emerging technologies or new applications.
Professional science societies
Science societies can fill a necessary role in providing professional development for scientists. They host meetings that include technical workshops, vendor demonstrations, and career development seminars. Organizations with credentialing programs may also provide continuing education options. For example, The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science manages the Professional Acknowledgement for Continuing Education program for clinical laboratory professionals with a directory of training providers and online courses.
Industry trade associations
Trade associations represent another independent source of industry-standard certification programs and related trainings. The Biotechnology Innovation Organization and affiliated state associations host events on industry topics (e.g., regulatory science) and offer on-demand life sciences trainings. Likewise, trade publications provide a wealth of webinars, articles, and resources focused on specific industries. Lab Manager has launched a certificate program to equip lab managers with leadership and management skills, for example.
Suppliers and third-party service providers
Training options from instrument vendors can range from site visits to online courses, which may be included as part of equipment service contracts. Many scientific lab suppliers also provide robust resource guides on their websites. As an example, Thermo Fisher Scientific’s online learning centers contain educational assets (e.g., application notes, how-to videos) on a variety of topics from antibodies to synthetic biology.
In the era of open-science initiatives, there are additional ways to engage with other scientists about published tools and methods through numerous online platforms.
Lab managers may also want to consider the value of peer-to-peer learning, such as externships at another company location or with a research collaborator to learn new protocols or how to operate specialized instrumentation. In the era of open-science initiatives, there are additional ways to engage with other scientists about published tools and methods through numerous online platforms (e.g., GitHub, Protocols.io).
By analyzing workforce capacity against future training needs and understanding the array of educational opportunities available, lab managers can develop custom training plans to fill skills gaps. These efforts ensure staff will be able to adapt to the ever-changing lab environment.