Raising awareness of NDT will address skills shortage


A roadmap of the future vision for NDT has been outlined in the 2014 report: ‘A landscape for the future of NDT in the UK economy’. The report identifies current opportunities and challenges for the NDT community in the UK and lists four primary areas where key enabling actions are required for the growth of the NDT industry in the UK. One of these primary areas is ‘people’.

The report outlines the actions needed in order to raise the public profile of NDT within the UK’s educational and recruitment systems as a means to solve the skills shortage currently being faced by the industry.

In 2007, a demographic review was carried out across a number of European countries by the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing (BINDT). The results showed that 60% of BINDT’s 1600 members were over the age of 50, with only 13% under the age of 40. Tony Dunhill, immediate Past President of BINDT, said: “I was surprised by the results of the demographic table in the report. It highlights that we need to be encouraging at least 500 people per year into the industry, if not 900.”

There is a limited understanding of the importance of NDT to economic growth and public safety. Although there is currently a solid network of NDT schools and training organisations throughout the UK and overseas offering training and examination in all the main NDT methods and techniques, it is thought that the lack of awareness of the industry in the public eye could be one of the causes of the limited numbers of young adults signing up to current training schemes and choosing NDT as a career. Robin Young, a member of the Materials KTN advisory board and technology expert for the Materials KTN Transport Sector at the time of the report, said: “The main barriers are a lack of awareness of what is possible and that is accentuated by a shortage of people who are skilled both technically and have a commercial instinct as well.”

The emergence of new advanced inspection technologies is also having a knock-on effect in both the recruitment and training of NDT specialists. The industry requires not only a new generation of NDT technicians but also more with a higher skill level in order to help develop new inspection techniques, reduce technology transfer times and to help move knowledge from the universities and into industry.

It is therefore crucial that action be taken to raise the profile of NDT throughout the education system by building schemes to encourage enrolment on new programmes. This can be facilitated by developing schemes such as apprenticeships, industrial placements and engineering doctorates, to not only assist in resolving the skills shortage currently being faced in NDT but also to help lighten the load for the many organisations who are struggling with the financial burdens that the training of new NDT technicians can hold.

Since the release of the KTN report, BINDT has been given the go-ahead by the UK government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to develop two new apprenticeship standards for NDT under the Phase 3 Trailblazer Apprenticeship Scheme. With the support of 58 companies, who have committed to taking on a total of 200 apprentices per year, BINDT is developing standards for the ‘Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) – Engineering Technician’ and ‘Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) – NDT Operator’ Apprenticeships, to be submitted for approval early in 2015. If you wish to be involved with the development group, which meets regularly to develop the schemes, or in the review group, which has the opportunity to comment by email, contact Roger Lyon, by email to roger.lyon@hotmail.co.uk

For more information and to view the full KTN report visit www.bindt.org/downloads/Materials-KTN-Future-of-NDT-in-UK-economy.pdf