As the economy shows real signs of recovery, the nondestructive testing (NDT) industry also is on the rebound. As if life in the nondestructive testing field were not interesting enough, the long-term economic downturn has created new challenges for NDT professionals. But people who choose to make NDT a career are made of strong stuff, and we learn to adapt and improvise as necessary. These skills serve us well during this difficult time.

We have seen proof of this in the NDT job market. A few years ago it was a “seller’s” market, with employers struggling to hire qualified technicians to fill empty NDT slots.

With plenty of work available, job seekers often had their choice of assignments. Many even chose to enjoy life as contract workers, jumping from location to location after a few weeks or months of work. My company was kept busy connecting employers with the right people for their growing needs.

But when the economy nosedived in 2008, the NDT industry felt the effects. Cutbacks, delays and cancelled contracts put the squeeze on hiring. Suddenly, it was not so easy for an NDT tech to find any work, much less the job of his or her choice. Our database of job seekers swelled while the list of available openings narrowed.

That’s when we began to see the flexibility and ingenuity of the NDT professional in action. Technicians who had spent all their working years in one industry quickly adapted their skills to fit another. Long-term NDT workers in the manufacturing industry smoothly transitioned to field work. Technicians who had been settled in one geographic area were willing to relocate across the country to a region where work was available.

Survival mode? Certainly. But we have all seen news reports of people in a variety of industries who simply chose to ride out the recession without making a real effort to change their way of thinking or working to meet the new situation. This was not the case with most people in the NDT industry.

Now, as the economy shows real signs of recovery, the NDT industry is on the rebound. More and more employers are coming to us with job openings and, while they can afford to be very selective in deciding whom they bring aboard, we are seeing some urgency in the hiring process.

All this is a credit to the type of individual who is attracted to the NDT industry in the first place. Nondestructive testing demands precision, attention to detail and patience. But it also requires initiative and adaptability, traits that have been showcased over the past few difficult years.