No one is getting any younger. The older, experienced people are retiring or leaving to go into other industries. So where, and more importantly how, do we find new people? That is, new people with both knowledge and experience.
There is no school the heat-treatment associate can attend in order to further his/her knowledge of heat treatment and its metallurgy. This is not a new problem; it is one that has been with us for many years. It is not a problem that only exists in North America. It is one that is of international proportions.
Generally (not in all cases), the heat treater has not had the opportunity to obtain a degree. Most heat treaters have emerged with a high-school education, and most heat treaters have had many other jobs before being drawn to heat treatment.
Many of the new hires have not seen the inside of a heat-treatment shop. Their first impression is that of a shop that usually has many fire-breathing dragons with fiery flames coming from their mouths; of oil tanks with dramatic flames leaping into the air. They tend to think of obnoxious fumes, ammonia, oil and unbearable heat. Sometimes the shop manager or owner is lucky to keep them past first break, let alone the first week!
Think of this: Many heat-treatment shops are treating life-and-limb components for aircraft, military, surgical, molds and dies. The shop owner has invested a great deal of money into the cost of the thermal-processing equipment. The clients have sent (in good faith) their work (whatever it might be) from a needle to a military component, from a surgical hip joint to an aircraft component. Yet our people are assumed to be quite capable of having the absolute knowledge to process the work without mistakes or repercussions.
Yet there is no formal academic school, university, college, community college or technical school in North America where the new hires can go to be trained and gain the knowledge to become the new leaders in heat treatment. Many of our new hires are relying on the knowledge of their peers to teach them the fundamentals of heat treatment.
The strength of the company is in its people, especially in the hands of trained people. The Metal Treating Institute (MTI) has recognized the “hole” that exists and has moved to fill it. They offer a very wide variety of heat-treatment training courses that will address most topics, including:
- Principles of heat treatment
- Surface treatments (carburizing, nitriding, carbonitriding and ferritic nitrocarburizing)
- Heat Treatment of aluminum alloys
- The nature and origins of martensite
Yes, there are criticisms for what MTI is doing and what they have accomplished, but the fact remains that nowhere else in the world are affordable courses being offered. We hear more and more each day of poorly heat-treated products coming into the country, and we see many imported products coming in that fail, yet there is no recourse of action.
North America was once the industrial giant of the world. It was a world leader in metallurgical processing. North America needs to regain the land that it lost with the jobs that are leaving the country on a daily basis.
MTI’s courses are designed to help the associate/technician/heat treater to be able to further their knowledge and their shop-owner’s credibility. The courses are not designed to make metallurgists from the associates but to give an affordable, basic education in their craft of heat treatment and metallurgy.