Interview with David Gilbert, Deputy CEO of the British Institute of NDT

The British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing (BINDT) is strong and vibrant, and SAINT caught up with Deputy CEO David Gilbert at the recent African NDT mini-conference in Middleburg…

Q: How did you get into NDT?
Most of us end up in NDT “by accident”. My background is electrical engineering, and of course I’m a little bit different because I’m not a practitioner of NDT. My background is technical publishing; I’m a qualified Electrical Engineer who moved into technical writing and then publishing, some of which was carried out in South Africa.

Q: What are some the trends you see in UK NDT?
On the technical side, the technology has evolved significantly, primarily linked with the huge advances in computer power. NDT covers a very large spectrum of technologies and a huge range of applications. But there are some traditional techniques that are still very popular, like Magnetic Particle Inspection, Dye Penetrant Inspection, and Visual Testing itself, the oldest of all techniques.

Q: What is your view of NDT?
It’s like being a doctor; the only difference is your patient can’t talk to you, so it makes it more difficult to know (a) if there is a problem and (b) what it might be!

Q: What similarities have you picked up between the South African NDT industry and the UK?
There are many similarities and common challenges.
With all the advances in technologies, the people who operate NDT equipment need more and better training, continually. We call that Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and it’s very important. People need to get properly trained and certified, which means you need a good system for training, certification and qualification. And they need the tools to be able to maintain and further their knowledge. This is why many of us - and SAINT - regard our website as a tool for the future of the industry, and as a resource for people to use in their career development.

Q: How many members does BINDT have?
We have about 2000 individual members, and about 200 corporate members. About 80% are in the UK and Europe, the rest are scattered around the world.

Q: Tell us about public awareness of NDT in the UK
It’s a difficult subject to explain to people; we make it difficult for ourselves by saying what we don’t do. We don’t destroy things. We should be talking about the positive aspects of what we’re doing; we save lives (for example some say 'we keep aeroplanes in the air'), we save money for industries by minimising down-time and preventing accidents. Often the only way to explain the benefits of carrying out Non-Destructive Testing is to refer to accidents that have happened. I'd like to turn this around and stress the positives.

Q: What do your members expect from BINDT?
Similar to SAINT members, they’re looking for knowledge, information and networking opportunities. We also organise conferences and events on the subjects of NDT and Condition Monitoring.
One major development is the recent UK government approval for a series of new apprenticeship standards for NDT. As part of BINDT’s strategic plan, NDT Apprenticeships will help to address the ageing profile of NDT technicians, they will encourage employers to take on new staff at reduced training costs and enable school leavers to embark on a worthwhile career in NDT. The resulting Apprentices will be fully-rounded NDT Engineering Technicians who have the skills to carry out appropriate NDT tasks within their industrial sector and in whom the employer can have considerable confidence.

Q: Does the UK system mean if you don’t have your CPD points and you’re not up to date, you can’t practise?
No, it’s not mandatory yet, not for BINDT anyway. There is however a possibility that it could be mandatory in the future. But there is a lot of encouragement; we have an organisation called The Engineering Council which monitors this. Another thing is engineering registration. Through BINDT, members can be registered and that means they can become an Engineering Technician, an Incorporated Engineer or a Chartered Engineer – we are nominated to control the application process for NDT.

Q: Your hope for the future?
I would like to see the general profile and public awareness of NDT increased so that there is more recognition for what we do. I believe NDT societies all over the world can work together to address this common challenge. This would also help to attract more young people into the profession. As I said at the beginning, most of us fell into NDT by accident. Most students, when considering career options, are completely unaware that NDT is a very exciting and rewarding career field. We need to change that.
In June 2016 there will be a world NDT conference in Germany with about 2000 delegates from 60 countries. There will be some 500 papers presented in nine parallel sessions over a whole week, and the event will revolve around a huge trade exhibition which is already sold out. We’re looking forward to this. More information is available at http://www.wcndt2016.com/

Q: A must-visit NDT website that you recommend?
Naturally this has to be www.bindt.org, but for a great introduction to NDT and the techniques involved I do like www.nde-ed.org.