Inspectioneering Journal

NDT Personnel Certification within Service Industry

A Change Is Needed

By Paul Marks at NDT Training and Placement Center. This article appears in the November/December 2000 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.

The Way We Were

I was certified within days of my entry into the business. Inside three months, I had performed as lead technician on several refinery inspection projects, as well as skid mounted oil and gas compressor units. I had also performed ultrasonic weld inspection of the complex welds used for offshore platform construction, and had inspected the piling welds during several platform installation projects. By the time I was in the business nine months, I was supervising the operations of that company (because the manager was primarily involved in sales). My progress was meteoric! What a business!

How was it that a rookie could progress so rapidly with this new employer? Did he have the NDT education credentials of Robert C. McMaster? Was it his background in science? The answer to all of these is the same. No! I struggled mightily to get through high school level geometry and biology. One year at a state university and three years of night school had not generated a degree. What I did have was what everybody else seemed to have - average intelligence, a hunger to learn, and a need to work a lot of overtime. (Pay was meager, but overtime was plentiful.)

The Essential Question

How is it that certification could happen so fast?

First Answer: It happened frequently that a person would be taken into the NDT business, provided with on-the-job training for one to three weeks, and certified as a technician in whatever method the OJT (on the job training), had partially prepared him/her for. The customers of the service companies of that era assumed that they were getting fully trained, properly certified technicians, but it was rare for them to audit the providers of NDT services.

Second Answer: Competition was tough and profit margins were snug in those times. Providing anything but OJT which took place while the employee was on billed time, would have been too costly. Economic pressure breeds expediency.

Third Answer: The certification system of that day was voluntary, based on recommendations found in a document published by the ASNT, SNT-TC-1A. The codes (i.e., AWS, API, and ASME) did indeed indicate that personnel performing NDT would be certified per those recommendations, but whether a service provider adhered to recommendation closely or loosely was not scrutinized carefully in those days.

What’s wrong with this picture?

In a business that is integrally linked to Quality Assurance - sort of like a search for the truth - my employer at that time was practicing deceit - and not just with me. They called me a Level II Technician within two days of my hire date, because I would not have been billable as a Helper, Assistant, or even a Level I. Was the fox in the hen-house? If a new hire could not become a generator of income until he was certified to Level II status, the best thing to do was to get him certified ASAP!

How could it be, in the midst of this business so directly related to Quality Assurance - where production systems are audited to assure that harmful shortcuts are not being taken - that such harmful shortcut could be tolerated?

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