If you work in a manufacturing company, how did you learn about metrology theory and practice? Do you have a nationally-accredited metrology qualification? Well, the answer to the first is likely to be: on-the-job training or as part of a broader engineering qualification and subsequently honed on-the-job training. Engineering qualifications historically were college-specific teaching and training, often delivered by lecturers with varying levels and currency of knowledge and minimal supporting equipment. Fundamentally, engineering vocational qualifications work to set assessment criteria that do not have standardised delivery and assessment. Even degree courses, while offering high level theoretical understanding, are unlikely to major on the practical side.

As to the second, for the most part, individuals working in quality control will have no metrology-specific formal qualification. Mitutoyo’s ‘City and Guilds Level 2 Award in Dimensional Metrology’, to give it its full title, has been developed to try and address the issue, as there was previously little available in the way of formal qualifications.

Indeed, this is the first metrology qualification to be offered by internationally recognised City & Guilds (C&G). It is intended to support career entry or progression in the field of product quality and is available exclusively through Mitutoyo. The qualification is on the Ofqual Register of Regulated Qualifications, a system that supports the easy comparison of qualifications (http://is.gd/f0h7E6).

METROLOGY CONTENT LACKING

“When you look at existing engineering qualifications, there is very little metrology content,” advises Jane Atkinson, head of training and development at the metrology specialist. “Most Level 3 engineering qualifications have only a few metrology-based assessment criteria and, in fact, our qualification maps to much of these criteria. This means that, if an individual has our Level 2 qualification, they can evidence the metrology content in other engineering qualifications.”

There are lots of courses offered to industry by metrology technology providers; Mitutoyo included. However, these are generally geared towards product operation, rather than conveying generalised underpinning knowledge, and may not conclude with a formal learning assessment that results in a nationally-accredited qualification – Mitutoyo’s C&G award does.

Jane Atkinson, foreground, delivers a unit in the Mitutoyo 'City and Guilds Award in Dimensional Metrology (Level 2)'

The qualification was unveiled at the end of 2014 and as at Machinery’s mid-January visit to the company’s Andover, Hampshire UK headquarters, some 400+ students had passed through the qualification, mostly from industry, although students from local colleges have attended the Andover premises, too. The C&G award is signalling a shift from general training to accredited training, says the company, with some companies sending several groups on the course.

Says Atkinson: “We now have customers sending all quality personnel to undertake two units, particularly the fundamentals and hand tools elements, thus upskilling their entire quality department. This means the company sees benefit in having more flexible and skilled personnel with a better understanding of the quality control process.”

Mitutoyo’s C&G course takes in a total of eight individual units. ‘Fundamental principles of dimensional metrology’, a one-day course, is compulsory, with a minimum of one other unit required to gain the Level 2 qualification (see http://is.gd/x6WDOu). These range from one-day courses, such as ‘Surface Measurement’, to a five-day ‘CNC contact co-ordinate measurement’ unit.

But while only two units are required to gain the qualification, each unit is C&G accredited to Level 2 and each unit sees a C&G certificate awarded.

The courses are delivered at Mitutoyo’s Coventry, Andover, Halifax and East Kilbride operations, with on-site delivery also offered. Individuals within the training team are all qualified to at least Level 3 in teaching and training.

Ruth Leatherdale, systems manager at Mitutoyo, Andover, observes: “Companies invest in equipment that may be many tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds, but they are sending people on our existing training courses that are lacking fundamental metrology skills. Attendees are struggling with terminology, concepts and understanding of dimensional measurement. This C&G qualification ensures those attending leave with the correct and current underpinning knowledge to maximise their companies’ investment.

“In fact, Mitutoyo includes places on its C&G course with capital equipment sales. Those attending a C&G course now undertake a prior assessment to determine if their level of knowledge is of a standard to allow them to fast track to the supplementary unit or if the ‘Fundamental Principles of Dimensional Metrology’ requires completion first.”

Adds Atkinson: “If candidates have already undergone one of our training courses, prior to the introduction of the qualification, they can sit the necessary assessments in order to gain the C&G qualification, which confirms their existing level of knowledge”.

The course is as applicable to people in industry as it is for students at college, Leatherdale adds: “For example, we have a unit ‘Fundamental Principles of Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing’, which is vital underpinning knowledge for design and quality control engineers alike, ensuring both know how to apply requirements, but also how to measure requirements. We are looking at every age group and every skill set across both industry and education with this qualification.”

COLLEGES AND UTCs

Head of training and development Atkinson says this year the company aims to increase the awareness of the qualification both within industry and within colleges and University Technical Colleges (UTCs), ensuring a standardised level of training for metrology.

UTCs are government funded schools that offer 14–19 year olds technical and scientific education (see box, ‘University Technical Colleges’, p44). The UTCs themselves are supported by companies to develop future apprentices and university entrants. Students going to university who have already taken the C&G course will have an understanding of metrology and practical experience ahead of students with only A-levels, Mitutoyo suggests.

As for schools and colleges, these are looking to add value to their teaching by working with industry, the company offers, with some college students having already passed through the courses by attending Mitutoyo premises and, as Atkinson highlights: “They come to our training sites, we show them the range of metrology equipment along with example applications and this puts their learning into context.”

This sort of experience with the very latest inspection equipment makes metrology real for students, says Mitutoyo. (The Skills Show achieves this on a much larger scale (http://is.gd/rKTPIc) and Mitutoyo supports this event with metrology equipment and personnel, seeing this as an important event that links metrology to manufacturing.)

While exposure to latest equipment compensates for the limited physical resources at colleges, there is also the issue of currency of knowledge of the teacher delivering the course at a college. Atkinson again: “I have worked in colleges delivering engineering qualifications. Resources tend to be quite limited and lecturers’ expertise may be limited, too. We are a metrology specialist, so we can deliver the metrology aspect better than most. There may be brilliant engineers that have worked in engineering for years [who are teaching], but their metrology knowledge might be more limited or out-of-date, so we can show them state-of-the-art and up-to-date equipment, giving them extra value.”

KNOWLEDGE UPDATE

Lecturers can update their knowledge by accompanying students on a C&G course, or attending for their own continuing professional development (CPD) course at a Mitutoyo facility. (Currency of knowledge is also an issue for industrial users as technology progresses, the company advises, however.)

Importantly, achieving the C&G qualification does not require investment by an organisation in, for example, a CMM; it is possible to gain the qualification via the one-day mandatory unit plus the one-day ‘Use of Small Dimensional Metrology Instruments’ unit that requires only the use of hand tools (provided for use on the course).

Mitutoyo’s C&G qualification may find a wider role in education, too, as Atkinson is part of the ‘Trailblazer’ group developing the Metrology Apprenticeship at Level 3 and 4. In addition, the company has ambitions to develop higher level nationally accredited qualifications.

Obtaining recognition for the importance of metrology has been Mitutoyo’s director Martin Weeks’ “lifelong ambition” and the pace appears now to be gathering in both industry and education for a standardised approach to the training of future metrologists and quality engineers.

BOX ITEM

All about UTCs

University technical colleges (UTCs) are government-funded schools that offer 14-18-year-olds more than traditional schools. They teach students technical and scientific subjects in a whole new way and are educating the inventors, engineers, scientists and technicians of tomorrow. There are some 60 nationwide and more than 30,000 students are able to follow this new technical education pathway.

They are smaller than traditional secondary schools, are not academically selective and charge no fees. UTCs typically have 600 students and have a catchment area that may extend across a number of local authorities.

UTCs (www.utcolleges.org) integrate technical, practical and academic learning and create an environment where students can thrive and develop the abilities that industry needs. To do this, a UTC: focuses on one or two technical specialisms; works with employers and a local university to develop and deliver their curriculum; provides essential academic education and relates this to the technical specialisms; has the latest equipment and technology used by industry; and dedicates at least 40% of time to the technical specialism, including design and building, working in teams and problem solving.

UTCs specialise in subjects where there is a shortage of skills. These include: engineering; manufacturing; health sciences; product design; digital technologies; and built environment.

By working with a university and local employers, UTC students benefit from access to: the latest research, industry experts and specialist facilities; real-life employer projects that stretch their technical skills and creative thinking; plus teaching and mentoring from specialists who currently work in industry.

This article was originally published in the February 2016 issue of Machinery magazine.