QMT Features: April 2009
Skills challenge ahead
A global shortage of engineering personnel is a challenge for the aerospace industry, amongst others. The development of quality-related professional development courses and certification programs is the answer.

Understanding the specifications and standards, such as AMS2750D or AS/EN/JISQ 9100, is not enough – organisations also need to employ the right people to implement the requirements properly. And this may require training.

The most basic way of describing training is: an activity that changes people’s behaviour. Increased productivity is usually given as the most important reason for training, but there are many other benefits, such as staff motivation and inspiration, as well as giving them the information they need to do their jobs more efficiently and innovatively, thus saving the company time and money.

This becomes all the more important for highly-skilled technologists, where the business need for retention is higher as these qualified, experienced individuals are hard to replace.

To encourage staff satisfaction, and to update their skills for the benefit of the business, many organisations in the aerospace industry are recognizing the need to identify professional development opportunities for their staff, especially in expertise-related areas.

This is timely because, according to the Aerospace Industries Association, the average aerospace engineer in the USA is nearly 60 years old, with approximately 27% already eligible for retirement. Meanwhile, the number of aerospace engineering degrees awarded in the USA fell 47% between 1991 and 2000, according to a report by the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry. This is a trend that is not limited to the aerospace industry: the entire field of engineering is in decline and continues to be on the top 10 list of most in-demand positions globally – for every industry, as shown by the results of this survey of 43,000 employers from 32 countries.

For all these reasons, PRI has worked with many quality-focused organisations such as Alcoa, SAE International, Goodrich Corporation, Honeywell Aerospace and Rolls-Royce plc to develop quality-related professional development courses and certification programs designed to consolidate and grow the knowledge base among engineers, as part of their Customer Solutions & Support program. The purpose of PRI’s Customer Solutions & Support is to provide quality customer-driven and cost-effective business solutions to continually improve organisations throughout the world. With the industry focus currently on personnel, this is the area that PRI is developing with the industry at the moment.

PRI’s professional development branch, eQuaLearn, offers courses in a range of quality-related topics, including Root Cause Corrective Action and Internal Auditing. Other, more technically specialized, topics include Introduction to Pyrometry and Heat Treating for the Automotive Special Processor. The objective of these courses, which were developed and validated by industry experts, is to improve the quality of personnel in the industry and ensure that valuable skills do not disappear when staff retire.

One of the courses that was developed most recently concerns the Aerospace Standard AS/EN/JISQ 9100. All aerospace manufacturers must comply with AS/EN/JISQ 9100 Rev. C, which was released by the IAQG early in 2009. The scope of 9100 has expanded to include aviation, space and defence and there will be greater emphasis on product and process improvement (such as risk management). eQuaLearn has developed a detailed review of the changes in AS/EN/JISQ 9100 and how to apply these new requirements at your company.

In March 2008, eQuaLearn celebrated its first anniversary and reported that, in its first year, over 2,000 students were trained in 12 countries and in 7 languages.

At the same time, PRI is also developing the complementary program, eQuaLified. This is also a part of PRI’s Customer Solutions and Support, and represents an industry-recognized special process personnel qualification system developed and validated by subject matter experts. 
Via special processes exams and training courses, eQuaLified ensures consistency and excellence amongst special processors - including heat treaters - and provides competency validation for both Primes and Suppliers.

eQuaLified objectively characterizes the special processes skills and knowledge of aerospace personnel levels:

1.Process Operator – Process Operators understand and perform the basic hands-on operations of the special process.
2.Process Planner – Process Planners are capable of designing manufacturing processes and interpreting process procedures to conform to customer specifications and requirements. Process Planners are capable of problem solving and resolving day to day issues.
3.Process Owner – Process Owners Capable of writing, reviewing and approving processes, procedures and qualifications of lower levels.  Process Owners are capable of designing new processes and resolving issues among all the other levels.

This means that employers the world over will be able to recruit appropriately for vacancies, and train their staff properly, because these individuals hold a globally recognized, industry-designated status. It also gives organisations kudos to employ technologists who have been acknowledged by the industry in this way.

The quality of personnel is as important as understanding the specifications and standards: all companies need to make sure they have the right people to do the job right. Otherwise, the risk of escapes, rework and simple human error goes up, which is bad for morale - and finances. In the current climate, no one can afford that. l


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