It’s Official

Government recognition matters for calibration occupations

by Christopher L. Grachanen

In July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published its recommendations for the upcoming 2018 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system via a second federal register notification. The SOC is the official U.S. government listing of worker occupations.

It also is the basis for categorizing a person’s occupation for the U.S. census and determining which occupations are showcased in the BLS’s Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). Some might ask, "Why is it a big deal whether the U.S. government’s BLS officially recognizes the calibration occupation?"

There are several benefits of official recognition, such as:

  • Making population demographics available to understand trends, such as people entering or exiting the occupation.
  • Making population demographics available to help make better informed decisions such as determining an organization’s location or relocation dependent on local metrological support; determining locations for conferences, seminars, training or education programs; or how to allocate resources for public relations and marketing.
  • A standardized categorization of workers that would prevent metrology and calibration workers from being lumped together with other occupations and their associated skill sets, education requirements and pay scales.
  • Standardization of job descriptions across an industry and organization’s business units.

BLS reasoning and definition

The 2018 SOC system’s inclusion of calibration technologists and technicians is the first time the U.S. government officially recognized the calibration occupation as unique. The SOC published a response with regard to its recommendations for including metrologists, calibration engineers and calibration technicians:

Docket 1-1311 requested new detailed occupations for (1) metrologists and calibration engineers and (2) calibration technicians. The [Standard Occupational Classification position classification, or SOCPC,] did not accept the recommendation to add metrologists and calibration engineers based on Classification Principle Nine on collectability. However, the SOCPC did accept the recommendation to add calibration technicians and proposes establishing a new code for this occupation, 17-3028 calibration technologists and technicians, and removing mention of calibration duties from the appropriate 2010 SOC occupations.1

The SOC’s proposed job description for calibration technologists and technicians was derived from a submitted petition made possible by a joint effort by the ASQ Measurement Quality Division and the National Conference of Standards Laboratories International for the 2018 SOC inclusion of calibration occupations, which includes these tasks:

Create and execute procedures and techniques for calibrating measurement devices by applying knowledge of measurement science, mathematics, physics and electronics, sometimes under the direction of engineering staff. Authenticate calibration traceability of measurement devices. Determine measurement standard suitability for calibrating measurement devices. Adapt equipment, measurement standards and procedures to accomplish unique measurements. May perform corrective actions to address identified calibration problems.2

One of the most significant benefits to the calibration profession is that it’s included in BLS’s OOH. The OOH is the leading public domain resource used by academic counselors and job-placement professionals to inform students and prospective job candidates about an occupation’s tasks, skill sets, prospective job outlook or salary information.3

The public domain information contained in the OOH helps spread the word about the calibration occupation to people making education or employment decisions, which is a huge benefit given the current wave of baby boomers retiring from the profession. Hopefully, you see why the U.S. government’s BLS officially recognizing the calibration occupation is a big deal.

References and note

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), BLS, 2015.
  2. Ibid.
  3. For information about the OOH, visit http://tinyurl.com/ooh-info.

Christopher L. Grachanen is a distinguished technologist and operations manager at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise in Houston. He earned an MBA from Regis University in Denver. Grachanen is a co-author of The Metrology Handbook (ASQ Quality Press, 2012), an ASQ fellow, an ASQ-certified calibration technician and the treasurer of the Measurement Quality Division.

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