A meaningful job

It has been a while since I participated in an organised sporting event. In the past I have undertaken a variety, but there are a couple I have deliberately avoided. The first is the marathon, having decided to limit myself to the half-marathon as it combines an enjoyable distance with a sufficient challenge. Doubling the distance seemed, to me at least, not worth the pain nor the extra commitment in training time. The second is the obstacle race, which has become very popular in recent years. I have avoided the latter partly because of age: the races established themselves after I had lost the exuberance of youth and I can think of more attractive ways of testing my limits than clambering through mud and being electrocuted, while paying for the 

This is just the way I see things. They do not apply to, nor colour my appreciation of, the many thousands of people who think differently and participate in these events. On the contrary, I am interested in people’s experiences of all such events. This is why I sat down with my daughter’s obstacle course team to hear their tales of individual mishaps and personal achievements as they enjoyed the best part of all such events: the post-finish reminiscence, when the physical pain and mental anguish have relinquished their grip and faded to such an extent that individuals start to contemplate their next 

If you are expecting me to disclose that I have signed up for a forthcoming organised event, then I am sorry to disappoint. As one of the group was an engineer, once the subject of traversing the obstacles had run its course, the conversation turned to engineering. I was waxing lyrical (to my daughter’s embarrassment, but that is what dads are for) on the fact that people do not go into engineering for the money but rather because of an interest in the subject and the challenge it offers. This interest does not end just because you reach a certain age, which is why a lot of people continue working or contributing to the profession beyond the nominal retirement age. The young engineer agreed and gave a quotation, which he had modified and adopted: “I do engineering for free; I get paid for the bullshit”. He had come across this in the book Big Man by Clarence Clemons and Don Reo and substituted ‘engineering’ for the original word, ‘music’. Evidently, this phrase has been used a lot.
Not long afterwards, Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, a newly published book by David Graeber, was reviewed in the newspapers. It highlights the increasing prevalence of jobs with tasks that do not really need to be performed. These are likely to be good jobs with social status and good pay. Following the publication of an article in 2013, which was the precursor to the book, a YouGov poll found that 37% of British adults in work said that their job did not contribute to the world and 33% did not find their jobs fulfilling (https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/08/12/british-jobs-meaningless/). Of course, NDT is a task that needs to be performed, probably more than it actually is! Just over a year ago, I wrote that a key motivation for work is the feeling that you are doing something worthwhile and making a contribution beyond your immediate environment to a service that is of benefit to society. I highlighted that the NDT profession has all of these attributes. But it is important to avoid complacency. As implied by the quotation mentioned before, all jobs have meaningless tasks associated with them and it is important to ensure that they do not smother the engineering that is the main source of 

Inspirations for these articles are a bit like buses: none for a time and then three turn up at once. Sure enough, on 3 July 2018, Radio 4 broadcast Square Pegs in Round Holes, the first of a two-part series about why people end up in jobs that do not suit them and how they can avoid it. A startling statistic was quoted: In Britain, 75% of workers “feel they are in jobs that don’t suit them or which they simply hate”. This not only affects industry due to the impact on productivity, but also the individuals themselves through stress and illness. There are many reasons why the majority of people end up in the wrong jobs and, what is more, stay in those jobs, just as they stay in what they consider to be meaningless jobs. However, if the NDT profession is to attract motivated people and retain them, not least to recover the investment in training, then we need to heed the warnings. How can we better inform school and university students about the profession and its benefits? How can we better provide work experience (not easy in an industrial setting)? With the demise of the ‘one company, one job for life’ expectation, what adaptations do we need to make to allow NDT to be part of an individual’s job portfolio? Finally, a really difficult question that is best left for another time: how can we improve the NDT working environment?

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within NDT News. They do not represent the views of Wood or BINDT.

Letters can be mailed to The Editor, NDT News, Midsummer House, Riverside Way, Bedford Road, Northampton NN1 5NX.
Fax: +44 (0)1604 438300; Email: ndtnews@bindt.org or email Bernard McGrath direct at bernard.mcgrath@woodplc.com

Comments by members

This forum post has no comments, be the first to leave a comment.

Submit your comment

You need to log in to submit a Comment. Please click here to log in or register.

<< Back