NDT as a career… work ethic and nostalgia

At the time of writing this column, news in the North American NDT world was slow as we awaited the ASNT Fall Conference, which this year took place in Las Vegas.

In a recent discussion with three colleagues, who have combined experience of over 100 years in NDT, the common theme was: ‘They don’t make them like they used to!’ So, how does that break down?

The common element seemed to be ‘work ethic’. In earlier years there seemed to be an inherent willingness to put in a full effort during the work shift, to work on after the end of the shift, to work through lunch if needed and to give full attention to the job.

‘Pride of workmanship’ was another commonly held ethic. ‘Do it right rather than do it over!’ Perhaps the training and experience were more intensive or perhaps the technician was able to obtain satisfaction from pride of workmanship. We were willing to travel to distant work locations and willing to work in inclement weather, in uncomfortable conditions and over long hours. There was a pride in integrity and an inherent sense of value in the test results and finding flaws that could have led to disastrous consequences.

Recently, at an industrial site that had shut down for repairs, a large group of NDT technicians had a couple of quieter days as access to the work areas was slow in being provided. Thus, the large group of technicians had time on their hands. As the access improved and the work intensity accelerated, these technicians were indignant at having to pick up the pace and increase the work intensity. It took the supervisor, a veteran of many such shutdowns, to ‘crack the whip’ and inform the recalcitrant technicians that this was the normal pace expected of them and, if they did not like it, they could be replaced.

So, as NDT contract companies hire new employees, inherent in the training and work scope are the expectations that each technician be willing to ‘be worthy of their hire’ and provide the effort necessary to achieve the expected job completion in a satisfactory manner.

I found an article online headed: ‘Why consider a career in non-destructive testing?’ (www.xritesting.com/careers_ndtasacareer.html). I quote from it:

“One of the most important choices we make in life is our vocation. What will I spend my life doing? Will I be able to support my family and myself? Some people make this decision at a very young age and relentlessly pursue their goal. For most people, however, it is less obvious and determined over the course of time. Having a career provides a foundation to life and helps you grow as a person. It is something to be proud of and nurture. You will likely spend as much, or more, time pursuing your work as you will with family and other activities, so it is important that you choose something you enjoy and find fulfilling.”

If you are interested in using your hands as well as your mind in a dynamic industry, non-destructive testing (NDT) may be for you. The National Science Foundation says this about careers in NDT:

“NDT plays a big role in keeping our world safe and is used to test many of the things that you come into contact with everyday. Non-destructive testing means parts and materials are tested or inspected without causing damage to them. NDT methods are used to make sure that important parts on airplanes, trains and automobiles are free of defects that could lead to an accident. NDT is also used in many other industries to make sure that parts do not have defects that would lead to unhappy customers. As a career field, non-destructive testing offers many opportunities and there is a big demand for technicians and engineers trained in NDT.”

Due to the high demand and low supply of certificated NDT technicians, the National Science Foundation has funded a very informative website that explains what NDT is all about and what job opportunities there are for you. To find information on careers in NDT, you can visit the site at: www.nde-ed.org

“The demand for certificated NDT technicians is at an all-time high today.”

“If you have a good aptitude for maths and science, are eager to learn and want to make a commitment to a great career in NDT, we want to hear from you. We are looking for positive outgoing people who will fit into our world-class team. Military experience is a plus. If you learned any type of technical skill in any branch of service, we want to discuss your opportunities in NDT. Training classes are forming on an ongoing basis and immediate openings are available in great locations across the country.”

This advertisement covers most of the basics and describes the elements of an NDT job. Unfortunately, the moral fibre of the individual will not be on display or tested to the utmost until they are on a job that requires diligence and perseverance in order to obtain the required result.

Of course, the world of our memories is always rosy and made even more glossy with the passage of time. However, it is clear to me that the work ethic of the 60s, 70s and 80s only lives on in the memories of the old guard.

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