NDT Hiring Trends are Looking Positive

When we reported the results of our annual NDT Salary & Benefits Survey last month ( it was clear that the prolonged economic slowdown was finally shaking loose, and that a level of confidence was returning to the NDT and quality inspection job market. Entering 2012, unemployment among full-time workers in the NDT industry was only 5%, well under the national unemployment average (which was 8.3% at the time of the report).

In my introduction to our survey results report I predicted that hiring managers would grow more confident in the economic recovery and begin to fill open positions at a faster rate. I am happy to report that this is proving to be the case.

From the end of 2010 through 2011, PQNDT was placing more temporary contract workers than full-time employees. Employers were simply not willing to commit to hiring NDT and quality inspection workers on a full-time basis until they were certain that there would be enough work to justify the cost.

Through the first few months of 2012, that attitude has changed. The number of full-time job openings and hiring activity is on the rise in all areas of the country, for all NDT certification levels, as well as for API and CWI positions. Full-time openings are an indicator that employers are confident that there will be a consistent volume of work ahead.

More good news for NDT professionals is that compensation levels are also on the upswing. In PQNDT’s 2010 Salary & Benefits Survey, conducted during the height of the recession, 43% of respondents who had been laid off had been forced to take a pay cut in order to land a new job. Sixty percent said their pay cut was 10% or more. That trend has reversed, with employers now offering higher wages in order to attract experienced NDT and quality inspection professionals.

A surprising factor is that contractor placement has not diminished. This may be even better news, as it may indicate a level of sustained growth in the NDT industry that bodes well for the future.

However, part of the new demand for NDT workers can also be traced to the effect the prolonged recession had on our industry. Many people left the industry when they were unable to find work after being laid off. Few have returned. The combination of renewed activity and a smaller pool of experienced and qualified workers has tightened demand across the board.

As the saying goes, “A rising tide floats all ships.” The rising level of economic activity appears to be floating the NDT and quality inspection industry back toward pre-recession levels.