MEASURE FOR MEASURE
The Metrology Job Description Initiative
by Christopher L. Grachanen
Talk to almost any calibration practitioner on the subject of new talent entering the metrology profession and you will probably get the same response: “There are not enough young folks entering the field to replace the many seasoned professionals getting ready to retire.”
The metrology profession, similar to other engineering disciplines in the United States, is facing a recruitment crisis of epic proportions. One reason young people are not entering the profession is simple lack of awareness of it at the time in their lives when they are making critical decisions about what careers to pursue.
Students in their last years of high school and first years of college often rely on educators to help them find professions that are congruent with their likes and interests. To do this, educators frequently reference U.S. Department of Labor publications for information about professions as well as forecasts of future job growth. Herein lies the problem for the metrology profession.
The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics identifies occupations using the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. The SOC system is used by all federal statistical agencies to classify workers into occupational categories when collecting, calculating and disseminating data. It is also used as the guide for developing the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, a nationally recognized source of information for people making decisions about their careers. The handbook describes job responsibilities, working conditions, training and education requirements, average earnings and expected job prospects in a wide range of occupations.
The SOC’s current job descriptions for calibration practitioners are fragmented among different job titles and are inaccurate in communicating job expectations. Without correct job descriptions, it is unlikely prospective candidates will be steered into the metrology field by educators. In addition, demographic information, such as how many people are in the metrology profession and how many are leaving the profession, cannot be accurately determined unless the job descriptions are accurate.
In early 2006, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will begin soliciting input for updates and additions to the SOC system for the next formal release. The SOC is updated once every 10 years, and the next release will be in 2010. Recognizing the window of opportunity to correct disparities in the SOC, ASQ’s Measurement Quality Division (MQD) has joined with National Conference of Standards Laboratories (NCSL) International in the metrology job description initiative. NCSL International has established the 163.1 Working Group on Standard Occupational Classifications. Working group members, commonly referred to as the core team, are volunteers from both NCSL International and MQD.
In 2004, as a member of the core team and project leader, I proposed a plan for correcting disparities in the SOC. The proposal contained the following key elements:
- Compile job descriptions from the U.S. metrology/calibration industry for calibration technicians, calibration engineers and metrologists.
- Identify common topics derived from the submitted job descriptions.
- Conduct a survey to solicit input on common topics from the U.S. metrology/calibration industry regarding applicability and agreement.
- Generate three- to five-sentence job descriptions for calibration technician, calibration engineer and metrologist to submit for the 2010 SOC.
MQD officers and NCSL Interna-tional’s board of directors approved the proposal, and it was later submitted to Professional Examination Services (PES) of New York City for administration. The choice of PES was based on a track record of success, having been instrumental in administering the job analysis survey during the creation of ASQ’s certified calibration technician (CCT) program. PES formulated a six-step roadmap to complete the project.
The PES Plan
Step one: Solicit job descriptions. PES will work with the project leader to identify parameters for soliciting job descriptions from the U.S. metrology/calibration industry for the three specific titles. The project leader will distribute the request for job descriptions. PES will review the submitted descriptions and select up to 25 for each job title, ensuring they provide broad representation of the metrology/calibration industry in terms of organization type, geographic representation and organization size. If additional job descriptions are needed to fill categories of representation, the project leader will solicit targeted descriptions.
Step two: Identify commonalities and
differences in job descriptions. PES will analyze the selected
job descriptions to find commonalities and differences. PES will
prepare a draft summary of the job elements for the three
positions and distribute it via
e-mail to the core team for review and comment. PES will work with the project leader to finalize the job elements.
Step three: Develop and pilot test survey. PES will develop and pilot test a brief Web based survey to solicit input from industry representatives on job elements that may be specific to calibration technicians, calibration engineers and metrologists. Survey participants will rate the job elements. Ratings might focus on their uniqueness to metrology and who performs them. The survey will also contain a demographic background questionnaire and open-ended comments section. PES recommends the core team nominate participants for the survey pilot test.
Step four: Disseminate survey. PES will disseminate a link to the online survey to a sample not to exceed 1,000. The project leader will be responsible for providing PES with the e-mail addresses of those in the survey sample. PES will consult with the project leader to identify the participants. By the end of October 2005, this step was complete.
Step five: Analyze survey data. PES will compile and summarize the survey results and present them to the core team for review and comment. By November 2005, hundreds of job descriptions had been collected from calibration professionals throughout the United States.
Step six: Generate job descriptions. PES will create three- to five-sentence job descriptions for calibration technician, calibration engineer and metrologistfrom the survey results to submit to the 2010 SOC . PES will circulate the descriptions to the core team for review and incorporate the team’s feedback into revised job descriptions as appropriate.
At the time of publication of this column, more than 600 calibration professionals have taken the survey, the results of which are currently being compiled and summarized. We anticipate finalized job descriptions will be ready to submit to the SOC by the end of January 2006.
The metrology job description initiative is a grass-roots effort to help reverse the declining number of young people entering the metrology profession. If educators and counselors are able to provide credible information about the metrology field, young people can be better aware of the opportunities, challenges and rewards of the profession at critical decision times in their lives. Without proactive initiatives to reach out and increase potential candidate awareness, metrology—like other technical vocations—will be increasingly hard pressed to find new talent to replace retiring baby boomers.
CHRISTOPHER L. GRACHANEN is the manager of Hewlett-Packard’s Houston metrology group and a co-author of The Metrology Handbook, published by ASQ Quality Press. He has a master’s degree in metrology from Regis University in Denver. Grachanen is a Senior Member of ASQ, the MQD secretary and certification chair, a certified calibration technician and also spearheaded the development of that certification. In 2003, he received the ASQ Certification Board’s Award for Excellence and MQD’s Max J. Unis Award.