Professional development - train for success in non-destructive testing

Materials World magazine
1 Jul 2013

Andrew Spencer, Head of Learning and Development at non-destructive testing training specialist Arygll Ruane, discusses changing training needs in industry and how to stand out from the crowd when applying for a job.

In every profession, training is important. Non-destructive testing (NDT) is different to many other occupations in that the training hours, assessment and licence to practice are mandated. Training is not an option, but a requirement, and rightly so. The downside to this is that there may be an assumption by employers and employees that the mandated training and assessment are processes to get through, rather than an opportunity to ensure you are at the leading edge of your profession and giving your career a boost.

However, employers are increasingly recognising the need for a broader range of skills. Businesses realise that as industries become more competitive, their employees can make a big difference in ensuring they stay ahead of the competition. Along with different subject areas, trainees are also increasing demand for access to alternative forms of learning – such as online, coaching and workshops. These methods have the advantage of taking less time off the job and enabling access regardless of location.

Networking can be helpful, particularly as part of a mix of individual development and training. By working together, connections can be made and networks established to discover the best learning methods and materials. Another resource to consider is your own professional body. Professional institutions provide a great way to keep in contact with other individuals and businesses within your industry, and are defined by their members. These bodies can be a powerful tool for encouraging career progression. Many of our team at Argyll-Ruane Ltd are involved in IMechE, BINDT, ICorr and ASNT activity, for example.

The demand for training has been affected by the recession, but in a counterintuitive way. The response to the recession around the world has been for infrastructure investment – for example pipelines, roads and power plants. This means that qualified NDT professionals are at a premium. The investment has rightly coincided with increased demand for proper process. However, the recession has affected the mentality associated with training – employers are being cautious over who they use and how much they’ll pay. A visible change in NDT training is that, due to demand for qualified professionals, employers are seeking more time-efficient delivery methods without losing effectiveness. As the world of NDT is constantly changing and evolving, employers wish to ensure that their professionals are trained using the most up-to-date equipment and methods.

There has always been a wide range of technical professionals from differing demographics who work in NDT. We have seen an increase in trainees coming from overseas to attend our courses. NDT has become a more globalised industry, with many UK professionals travelling around the world and many internationally based professionals coming to the UK to receive the best training. Our challenge is to adapt to differing educational methods, languages and cultures. The main pressure is on training to accommodate developments in test equipment and technology. As equipment changes, the organisations that administer and set standards need to accommodate these innovations. The challenge is to ensure that new engineers learn with s the latest equipment and that experienced individuals can effectively relearn using these new tools. Courses have to accommodate different skill levels, and tutors and course developers must be aware of what was taught and with which equipment.

This combines with our goal to use changes in the way that training and learning is delivered, in particular through online learning. I have previously created programmes supported by online learning for other disciplines and the platform lends itself perfectly to a blended approach in NDT training. It is ideal in combination with a good, experienced trainer and a properly equipped practical environment, and it is an area we’ll take a close look at in the coming months.

In NDT and the engineering world in general, there is always a push to innovate and modernise. NDT training also needs to respond to changes that are being made in other industries, for example in the way that passenger jets are now constructed. We are responding to these innovations by offering new courses and training in how to use new equipment and techniques to ensure that trainees who complete programmes with us are the best they can be. Two great examples of the advanced courses that we offer as a way of staying at the leading edge of NDT training are in time of flight diffraction and phased array ultrasonic testing methods. These techniques are of growing significance in the NDT world and so we are aiming to provide companies and individuals with the training they need to stay up to date with the latest technologies.

In a world where there is more competition, training and qualifications are one way to stand out. In the NDT world, new equipment and new techniques make it an essential part of career development. It is important to remember that, while your job is with your employer, your career is your own, and developing it requires an individual to be proactive and to plan ahead. There are many resources out there for those wishing to progress. Involvement in professional bodies is a great way of finding new avenues for progression and can also serve as a differentiator for the CV, and maybe making the connection to the next job. Being proactive also means challenging your attitude to career development and seeing training as more than just ticking a box. Find out what the last innovations in equipment or techniques are in your industry and then actively seek ways to learn about them to make yourself stand out.