Where Will Our Future Techs Come From?

Nondestructive testing is HOT! The country’s economic rebound has led to a resurgence in many industries in which NDT plays an important role. As a result, the NDT labor market is tighter than ever, with many inspection jobs (both in the field and in the laboratory) going unfilled. It is estimated that the industry will need at least 3,000 new NDT technicians to enter the workforce in the next few years.

Sounds like a perfect situation for somebody beginning their NDT career, doesn’t it? A great time to get a good start? But there is more to getting a good NDT job than just desire. It requires a solid education, certifications and experience. And that is where our industry may be heading for trouble down the road.

Our most recent salary and benefits survey of the NDT industry was full of interesting facts. But one that stands out as worrisome was the average age of the respondents: 42 years, with more than 13 years of experience in the industry.

Why worry about this figure? It shows a definite “maturing” of the NDT workforce, which is a good thing in terms of experience and professionalism. But as NDT workers continue to age, is there sufficient young talent coming up behind them to fill a growing need?

The industry as a whole needs to make a strong commitment to NDT’s future workforce by encouraging and training young professionals to enter and grow in NDT. Employers must be willing to invest both time and money to hire and train people who may have raw skills, but lack experience and certifications. Ongoing training, mentoring, paid courses – all will help welcome new NDT professionals and encourage them to remain a part of our industry.

We need people in all areas of the industry – from field techs to managers to company owners – to step up and do what needs to be done to welcome new men and women into our profession, and to encourage and prepare them for success.