Why employers thought it necessary to develop two apprenticeships

This month, I will focus on the NDT Operator apprenticeship and why employers thought it necessary to develop two apprenticeships, rather than one…

When the employers sat down at the very first Trailblazer Development Group meeting, the top item on the agenda was to explore the scope of what we wanted to include in the apprenticeship, which at the time was going to be a single apprenticeship scheme. It soon became clear that the employers had very diverse views regarding the content of the apprenticeship, for example some wanted a comprehensive apprenticeship that required three NDT methods, of which one had to be a complex method (in this case, a complex method is defined as either ultrasonic, eddy current, radiography or thermography). Conversely, other employers had very good reasons why we should develop an apprenticeship that included just one NDT method.

The promotion of the NDT Operator apprenticeship was based on NDT Operators performing inspections within manufacturing processes, often in production line environments and with high product volumes, using a single NDT method. Inspections apply within manufacturing, in-service inspection or specialised applications, such as NDT equipment development. So, high-volume inspections, production line environments and specialist applications were three very good reasons why we needed to consider training and qualifying an apprentice in just one NDT method.

So, here was the difficulty: the government does not mind choices within an apprenticeship, providing the choices are at the same level, but to have the choice of one NDT method or three NDT methods in the same apprenticeship would not have been acceptable. The other dilemma was the funding model that has to be developed for each apprenticeship: how could you cost an apprenticeship that on the one hand required four months to achieve a single NDT method, or on the other hand took the best part of two years to achieve three NDT methods? Having approached the government, we were given a concession to develop two apprenticeship schemes rather than one and hence the NDT Operator apprenticeship was born.

In addition to the single NDT method, knowledge and skills will be gained in: health & safety pertinent to the specific requirements of the relevant NDT method; an awareness of other NDT methods of inspection and their general capabilities and limitations; the knowledge required for the assessment of defects against acceptance/rejection criteria (required by standards); relevant sector-specific technology, quality aspects and working practices, such as inductions and confidentiality; material and product technology associated with the specific industry sector; and developing an understanding of the consequences of failure and the risk to life.

Next month, I will discuss the importance of the NDT project, which applies to both the NDT Engineering Technician and the NDT Operator apprenticeships.

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