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WILKINSON COUTTS / MATTHEWS INTEGRITY HUB: an up-to-the-minute information mix designed to help you with your lifework and career development in the asset integrity, inspection and NDE industries.

Matthew Petroleum Notes

INTEGRITY JOB ROLES:
SO WHAT’S NEW?

First a question for you

Take a pause for a few moments from whatever you are doing and think about the various types of jobs in the Integrity Industry. You can include all the relevant roles in your thinking, from NDT to new construction and in-service inspection through to mathematical evaluation and advanced fitness-for-purpose assessments.

Think not only about the day-to-day technical activities of these jobs, but also how, and where, and why you may be employed to do them. To get a full picture, don’t just think of the current situation as you see it, but think of the difference if you had done the same bit of thinking thirty years ago, before the internet, instant mobile communications, and easy movement of personnel between short-term contracts. Can you see any trends that you think may be important?

In a moment I will ask you to write a list of your ‘headline’ trends in a table, to help you think about the way a job role relevant to you might suddenly appear, change, or disappear. First however, let’s think around the subject and consider look at four influencing topics: change, the great divide, blurring of work and leisure and self-training responsibility. Then we’ll be ready to look for trends in jobs in the integrity industry.

 

CHANGE is getting faster…much faster

ChangeUndoubtedly, this is the most important of them all. For a couple of decades things were reasonably static, with the internet building up its capability and a progressive trend towards mobile devices and connectivity. In the past 5 years however, Pow! We’ve got flash drive capacity measured in Terabytes, internet connectivity for your fridge, car, wardrobe, printer, garage, lawnmower and doorbell, automated retail and ticketing, driverless cars, trucks and trains, smartphones, smart drones, and the emergence of the first reasonably-useful robots. Some of them are really clever; forget cardboard Daleks and look at Asimo on http://asimo.honda.com/,with its 34 degrees of freedom. Exactly how many do you think it will have in 5 years’ time? still 34?

It’s not so much the nature of these changes that is important (things develop and change all the time), but the speed at which it is happening. The word is exponential; in any period of five years, the blinking of an eyelid, all is going to change. Prepare to wave goodbye soon to petrol engines, desktop computers, bus drivers, airline pilots, shops with assistants in them, and the general principle that clever things designed by humans should be operated by humans rather than some even cleverer bit of technology. That’s just the first couple of five-year windows, and the clock isn’t going to stop then.

 

WELCOME to …The Great Divide

If you were to tentatively ask an economist (who would want to bother them?) about the expected effect of this exponential rate of technological change you may hear it put rather formally (as these people do) like this;

Despite robust growth driven by strong high-tech industries, a two-tiered, divided society will emerge, reinforcing the divergence in the economic position of the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

There’s nothing particularly new about divides between haves and have-nots; that idea’s been around for a good few thousand years. The difference is in the speed this will happen and the nature of the divide. The divide will be driven by the ability of people (you) to embrace the new technology at the stellar speed at which it will continue to change. This will quite simply decide which side of this Great Divide you end up being on. It is called ‘Great’ because it will swamp all the others, changing more rapidly and fundamentally than any that have gone before. In comparison, the first industrial revolution will look like it moved at glacial speed, so don’t use that as your yardstick.

 

BLURRING of work and leisure

The idea of a single education, followed by a single career, interspersed by separate home and leisure activities and finishing with a single pension is over. No need to take our word for it, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, a publicly funded, industry-led organisation seems to agree. Have a look at www.ukces.org.uk/thefutureofwork if you like to read formal reports about this kind of stuff.

 

The alternative is here already and all around you in the form of; The Gig Economy. Its explanation is easy enough, people in the workforce are increasingly mobile and work can increasingly be done from anywhere, so that job and location are decoupled. Freelancers can select among temporary jobs and projects around the world, while employers can select the best individuals for specific projects from a larger pool than that available in any given area.

The knock-on effect of this is that companies will shrink their workforces to a minimum using flexibly-employed freelancers to do most of the useful work. Only a small group of head office employees will be left on long-term ‘staff’ contracts; perhaps those who can’t quite get the meaning of that exponential change = great divide message.

A natural feature of this gig economy, dominated by active, technology-seeking freelancers, is the blurring or work and leisure into one. Freelancers are prepared to work whenever and wherever. Anyone who can adapt to this, and the knowledge and technology that feeds it, is heading for one side of the divide. Those who prefer to ignore it and live in the past are booking their place on the other.

 

Self-TRAINING responsibility

It’s all change here also. A gig economy dominated by freelancers requires that employers want qualifications that are directly relevant to the jobs that need to be done, rather than nice to have to ease your way up the corporate ladder (most of the ladders have gone, anyway). If it’s degrees employers want (blame the HR people), then these will get shorter; have you seen the current trend towards 2-year associate degrees? Once these are out of the way, then more job-specific technical training qualifications will become more important.

In the world of freelancers, individual responsibility for training moves away from the employer to the employee. YOU are responsible for your own qualifications and training because there is no reason whatsoever that any employers should pay for it, to aid you in your natural move to the next project or employer.

 

In the new world of employee-led training, out go company-funded training programmes and year-long familiarisation programmes and in come self-initiated training; online learning, peer-to-peer learning (look it up, its on its way) and transferrable technical certificates in recognisable technical subjects. These are fitted in between freelancing projects, and last throughout a career, rather than just towards the beginning. Understanding of new developments must be part of this, encompassing new technologies, skills, qualifications and certifications as they emerge, otherwise you will be soon left behind. Remember that exponential rate of change that is waiting to catch you out.

 

Integrity Jobs; HEADLINE TRENDS that might affect you

Now we’ve got those four influencing topics out of the way, print out and fill in the table below, thinking about the trends in integrity industry jobs that you can anticipate may affect you. There are a few hints in the RH column if you run out of ideas.

There are no ‘correct’ answers to any of these. It’s your table. It all depends on what jobs you want to do now and in the future. If you haven’t thought about any of these trends however, be careful you are not falling behind; remember that exponential rate of change thing we discussed a bit earlier.

What about the view from the other side of the employment fence? Take a look at our article The EMPLOYER’S view of the integrity industry freelance/gig economy.

We thank THE MANAGER for contributing this article to Matthews Integrity Hub: HEAD OFFICE

 

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