I would appreciate the NDT community's thoughts on the proposition outlined below. It seeks to start a conversation that could lead to a more flexible NDT workforce; able to work across different industrial sectors. Although I use ultrasonic testing (UT) as an example here, this also applies to other methods. Other sectors, than aerospace and oil & gas examined here, can also be considered.
Proficiency in UT of a weld on an oil platform or of a CFRP composite panel on an aircraft requires knowledge of how they were formed and thus what flaws may be inherent. Of course, they are two different beasts, and this is only one example of how discontinuities differ from one sector to another; how they're sought and what their indications represent. This has necessarily led to sector specific certification and to NDT practitioners being pigeonholed.
For example, although the actual UT technique used to determine flaws in a CFRP composite panel is relatively easy (compared to shear wave testing), knowledge of how it was manufactured and of potential flaws inherent from manufacture or service life is key. The oil and gas NDT technician with PCN 3.1, 3.2 would not be equipped to successfully carry out this test. It's even more evident looking at it the other way around. However, the shortage of technicians lies in UT of composites and they are in greater demand than ever. This disparity in skill sets applies to other methods and sectors as well.
Product Technology Training
In the future I would like to see training courses developed solely to address differences in product technology; that are specific to each industrial sector and be used as an appendix to core method certification. Rather than, as at present, a PCN UT 3.1 tech being required to undergo basic theory again to achieve PCN Aero, for example. This, I would argue, would provide a leaner pathway to certification and enable technicians to utilise their existing method certs to move more easily between sectors. For example: a course in aerospace structures and manufacture of carbon composite parts. This would enable an oil and gas technician to switch to aerospace. This idea, in principle, would have to be agreed by certifying bodies (ASNT, BINDT (PCN) and ISO) and extensive work carried out to determine appropriate content and how much work experience would entitle them to accreditation. Nonetheless, I believe that this will provide a more flexible NDT workforce that would be better equipped to fill shortfalls in sector manpower or enable technicians to move from highly competitive sectors. I recognise that technicians require extensive experience in their new field to become and remain effective, but once achieved, the period of ‘significant interruption' stipulated in PCN can be used to determine whether these courses remain current for the individual.
So, I have laid out my proposition, very much in principle, and acknowledge the extensive work to make it a reality. Can it become a reality? Have I misunderstood sector specific certification? I look forward to your thoughts.