By Heather Kleb
Canadian Nuclear Association
On 2014 June 18, I had the opportunity to provide one of the keynote speeches at the 5th International CANDU ISI Workshop & NDT in Canada 2014 Conference.
Conference organizer, the Canadian Institute for NDE (CINDE), is a not-for-profit organization with a mandate to promote awareness, and deliver education and certification testing in the area of non-destructive testing (NDT).
NDT, one of the least known but most widespread occupations, spans several industries, ranging from aerospace and automotive to petrochemical and nuclear.
NDT inspectors have played an essential role in assuring quality throughout the industrialized world since the early 1900s. They will continue to be relied upon during the implementation of major projects, such as the refurbishment of Ontario’s nuclear reactors. Refurbishing our reactors will involve opening them up right down to the core and inspecting, servicing, and replacing major components.
The NDT in Canada 2014 Conference provided the opportunity to share thoughts on these and other industry priorities. Over the past year, Canada’s nuclear leadership has re-examined its priorities in anticipation of major projects, such as refurbishment, decommissioning and waste management. As a result of this re-examination, a shared vision has evolved, which identifies both the opportunities and the challenges.
At the heart of the vision, is the desire to demonstrate excellent performance on major projects and to achieve supply chain success in supporting these projects. This of course cannot be achieved without a continuous supply of skilled technicians, engineers and scientists in NDT and other areas.
The vision is not without challenges, however. A challenge that resonated with everyone at the Conference was that the demand for skills is rising, but many of the skilled workers who built Ontario’s reactor fleet are retiring. This is a challenge with which NDT inspectors are already very familiar.
While there are many qualified inspectors, there simply aren’t enough of them to meet today’s demand. We are increasingly seeing industries with competing demands for inspectors jockey to hire from the same pool of skilled workers, pitting the aerospace industry against the petrochemical industry, and other industries.
The industry vision has the potential to bring significant opportunities to the workforce. A key element in that strategic vision will be the quantification of the demand for skilled workers. This is the subject of study by Canadian Nuclear Association members, as well as key NDT stakeholders (the Quality Control Council of Canada, the NDT Management Association, the NDT Certification Body, and the CINDE). There is a collective realization that taking the time to plan will result in immediate benefits, as well as pave the way for future demands.