ELISA and RIA and colorimetric assays are simple to do. I would think that having lab experience is just not that crucial, especially if this is for a technician position. It certainly isn’t in my lab – my boss makes a point to hire motivated untrained people that we can meld to our specifications. Graduate students and experienced techs train new techs all the time without incident. ELISA and RIA are both pretty easy to do. We’re not talking about making cDNA libraries or RNase protection or complicated molecular cloning or anything.
For a typical ELISA: Affix antigen -> wash -> block -> affix primary antibody -> wash -> block -> affix secondary antibody -> wash well -> add color buffer and substrate -> develop -> read. Washes are usually with a phosphate buffer plus or minus detergent; block with serum or milk or some commercial blocking reagent. Same as for a RIA, but that requires radioactivity, and radiation safety couses are provided by the institution upon hiring (usually). If you are assaying antibodies, you are usually dumping raw serum on there for the primary antibody step. If you are assaying for antigens, you have to prepare the antigen from the isolated sample. This can be more complicated, but it is usually just another protocol.
Colorimetric reactions are even easier, like Coomasie protein assays: lyse cells by sonication -> add reagent -> prepare control blank sample -> blank spectrophotomer and then measure your sample. I can’t imagine that you would need to be an immunohistochem whiz to do this stuff – they are using kits to do the assays, and they probably have a standard purification, ELISA and RIA protocols that they use and know work.
I can train someone to do those assays by day three, maximum. Day one is spent in employee orientation and radiation safety. Day two, one can learn to use all of the tools of the trade in a day (pipettors, spectrophotometers, scintillation counters, scales, sonicators, centrifuges, etc.) and making up reagents and buffers needed. Day 3, you are ready to start assays.
Their last sentence “Basic use of spectrophotometers…would be advantageous” is a crock. You know what an ELISA and a RIA is now, everyone uses different machinery to carry these things out so a new hire in a lab is never assumed to know how to work the gadgets. Sure, it may be nice to know what each thing does, so here is a list:
spectrophotometer – basically, this has a bulb that sends out light at a selectable wavelength. The light passes though a chamber containing a dilution of the sample in a buffer in a holder called a cuvette. One has blanked the machine first (zeroed it out, usually with buffer without sample added) so the spec knows how much light should be getting through. The output is in OD (optical density), also called absorbance. This is the log I/I[sub]0[/sub] where I is the light transmitted through the sample and I[sub]0[/sub] is the light incident upon the sample. OD is linearly related to concentration, so you can back-calculate the concentration of a sample. A[sub]260[/sub] (absorbance at 260 nm) is useful for measuring DNA concentration, many colorimetric assays are done in the visible light spectrum.
scintillation counter – this is a gadget that quantitatively measures radioactivity. The radioactively-tagged sample is diluted in this scintillation fluid. When a radioactive particle is released from the sample, it is absorbed by the scintillation fluid which then emits a quantum of light, a scintillation. This is recorded by the counter. One can back calculate the concentration if one knows how radioactively tagged your sample was.
ELISA plate reader – The readout of an ELISA is a colorimetric reaction which usually leaves a colored precipitate on the bottom of a well of an 8x12 96-well plate. A plate reader is a sophisticated camera that records the amount of color per well and attempts to quantitate it.
Lab practice in general – well, that’s a bit more tricky. As I say, a good teacher can have it down for you in one day. We use a lot of different devices to accurately measure volumes and weights. Much of it is not idiot-proof. There are many other things to know – how to use sterile technique to prevent microbiologic contamination, what not to touch (what is bad for you), how to use a chemical hood, etc. It is pretty easy and comes pretty naturally to those with any kind of common sense.