Aerospace. Defense. Oil and Gas and Fabrication. Power Generation. Inside. Outside. Small. Large. Domestic. Global.
These diverse career opportunities, working environments and job locations are among the benefits to seeking a high-demand career in Nondestructive Inspection, Testing and Evaluation (NDT/I). Though often overlooked or even when encountered, unfamiliar to most, NDI/T plays an invaluable role in numerous businesses that impact daily life.
Nondestructive testing is used to inspect a component or system to verify that the system, or part, meets engineering requirements so that the system will function as designed. NDT testing uses state-of-the-art technologies such as ultrasonic, electromagnetic, X-ray and liquid penetrant inspections. Typical inspections conducted by NDT technicians include aircraft engine components, aircraft airframes, power generation equipment, bridges, buildings, electronic components, automotive components, space systems and defense systems.
Unfortunately, this critical field has been so far off the beaten path that recruitment has not kept pace, so extinction looms unless the field soon is infused with a younger generation of workers to fill the anticipated vacancies.
“The NDT community has an aging workforce and will need replacements to support the expanding industries,” said Glenn Rodriquez, quality operations manager, NDI, MRB, Tooling & Metrology, Responsible Level III at Flight Bell. “An example for Bell is (that) 40 percent of the NDT workforce will retire or look for other opportunities within the next five years.”
Rodriguez approached TCC Dean James “Clint” Grant about re-establishing a program that would provide a direct pipeline to job opportunities in this vital industry. The two-year program requires 60 credit hours, including a summer term, and is offered at the Erma C. Johnson Hadley Northwest Center of Excellence for Aviation, Transportation and Logistics. Classes include topics such as metallurgy, aerospace engineering technology, ultrasonic testing, composite fundamentals, plane trigonometry, psychology and industrial radiography.
“TCC previously had a program, from which I graduated in 1982. I felt it was important to restart the program to support the needs in the local DFW area,” said Rodriguez, who chairs the program’s advisory council (AC).
This program would appeal to students who enjoy the practical use of physics and technology. Individuals who like working with their hands outside or in industrial environments using technically advanced equipment and are good at interpreting and explaining complex data to decision makers.
James “Clint” Grant
TCC Dean of the Aviation, Business and Logistics Division
Grant said establishing the program is the latest example of how TCC’s reputation is viewed by regional businesses, allowing it to be the college of choice when industry needs arise.
“There are no other public programs in the north central Texas area that offer training in NDI/NDT certifications. Like many other industries, the need for trained workers is increasing as the workforce ages and no pipeline is in place to replace them,” Grant said. “The advisory committee members’ concern is the lack of training in this area. Other community colleges offer NDI/NDT, but they are located too far away to be a source of talent for local industry.”
Dale Norwood, AC member and Parker Aerospace NDT Responsible Level III, concurred. “It has always been extremely difficult in the North Texas area to find and hire qualified NDT inspectors. This program will give all employers a great pipeline to find inspectors,” said Norwood, adding that he has enjoyed working with other industry leaders on the advisory council. “Because a program like this has been way overdue and needed for years, I wanted to help in every way I could to make it happen. Over the last 15 years, I have traveled to South Texas and to many states to interview graduates of NDT programs. It will be great to hire graduates from a local school.”
Besides making training in NDT available in the North Texas area, it also will expand traditional offerings, Grant said. “Many NDI/NDT programs tend to focus solely on materials made from metal such as those used in shipping, gas/oil piping and other welded structures. The AC wanted the TCC program to have a focus toward aerospace and aviation applications, which use advanced composite materials that require different types of NDI/NDT techniques.”
When it became time to staff the program, TCC went to an industry leader who could develop, teach and inspire students entering the program—Walter “Buddy” Jeter, a 34-year veteran and Level III in Ultrasonics, Liquid Penetrant, Magnetic Particle and Eddy Current. For the last eight years, Jeter was the Responsible Level III for NDT Certification for a major global company with more than 500 certified NDT technicians.
“I wanted to give back to the industry what I have learned, having the ability to use my experience to shape the course to meet the industry needs,” said Jeter, adding that he discovered he enjoyed teaching when required to do some training for some of his previous employers. “I think a critical part of the program is not only (ensuring) students know how to do the inspections, but (enhancing) their integrity and confidence in their abilities (that) will improve their ability to succeed in the industry.”
Jeter, who discovered the field after he dropped out of college, said a good candidate for the program is anyone who wants to make a good living in an important, growing field without spending four years to earn a degree.
Additionally, Grant said, “This program would appeal to students who enjoy the practical use of physics and technology. Individuals who like working with their hands outside or in industrial environments using technically advanced equipment and are good at interpreting and explaining complex data to decision makers. It (also offers) the potential to work independently.”
Other important traits for potential candidates include “the ability to understand, interpret and explain data, with an interest in how materials are created and (how) structures are assembled and (those who) enjoy physical activity and working outside or in industrial environments,” Grant added.
Students who successfully complete the program will satisfy the educational requirements to earn credentials as a Certified Level I or II in any of the inspection methods, Jeter explained.
Grant said jobs are available in a variety of fields.
“Typical jobs would be for almost any company that is involved in manufacturing such as welding and fabrication shops, aircraft manufacturers, airlines, shipping, oil and gas and construction. These types of industries can be found locally, nationally and throughout the world.”
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates NDT jobs are estimated to grow by 6 to 7 percent, Texas is in the top 10 hiring states with an expected growth rate of about 20 percent, according to Recruiter.com.