GQA Qualifications Blog

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Lets take a look at the Coatings Industry

The Coatings Industry is described by some as the ‘World’s Most Visible Industry’, and by others as ‘The World’s Oldest Industry’, both of which may well be true. As Paints and Varnishes, Coatings are indeed highly visible, but often ‘overlooked’;  most of the surfaces around us are painted, to achieve both decoration and protection; we take their presence for granted. In terms of age, there is clear evidence that our long dead ancestors, sometimes working in teams, or even using apprentices, decorated their dwellings and meeting places. Cave ‘art’, often using sophisticated techniques, has been dated back to 40,000 BC, some of which could not have been achieved without teamwork. Today, coatings infiltrate our lives to a greater extent than most of us realise. Our lives would be almost unimaginably different without them. For anyone who is considering the Coatings Industry as a career, but is uncertain of its value, a challenging exercise is to answer the question ‘what would life be like without it?’ The answer is not simply that life would be a bit dull, or monochrome, without their colourful decorative properties. There would be no ‘Old Masterworks’ in our art galleries; no books, newspapers or inkjet printers; metal objects would corrode away – no cars, motorcycles, no Forth Road Bridge. The examples are endless.

Today’s Coatings Industry is genuinely high-tech and is essentially a sub-division of the Chemical Process Industry. Coatings development laboratories rival any modern university facility. Polymers, a key, perhaps the key component in any coatings material are produced in complex chemical reactors, as are pigments, which impart specific properties; colour, opacity and corrosion resistance, to name just a few. Coatings, themselves are made in sophisticated process plants operated by skilled process operatives. Their quality is maintained and assured via rigorous testing regimes, specified by formulators, clients, National and International Standards Organisations. New products may undergo five years, or more, of test procedures before their release into the marketplace. The UK market for coatings is valued, annually, at circa £2 billion and employs approximately 21,000 people, which excludes the hundreds of thousands of employees involved in their application. Coatings Industry clients are involved in decoration, metal finishing, structural steel, fire protection, motor vehicles, shipbuilding and repair, wood finishing, plastics, packaging, medicines, electronics, glass, ceramics, print, road construction and marking etc. etc.

There are any number of fulfilling careers in the Coatings Industry for which training and nationally recognised qualifications are available and achievable. Within technical functions – Research and Development, Quality Control and Assurance, there are GQA QCF Technical Certificates available at levels 2, 3 and 4, a level 5 Diploma and a level 3 Competence Diploma in Laboratory Practice. In process functions – Manufacturing, there three QCF qualifications available at levels 2 & 3, a level 2 Certificate in Coatings Production, a level 2 Diploma in Coatings Production, a level 3 Diploma in Coatings Production. These GQA qualifications were written and compiled by experienced Coatings Industry Professionals, specifically for the Coatings Industry. Technical Certificates are delivered only by licenced providers, normally, but not exclusively, by distance learning and one-to-one tuition. The competence qualifications are delivered ‘on-the-job’, and are assessed only by licenced assessors.

These qualifications can be undertaken by new starters or their experienced counterparts in the industry, at any age. There are funded apprenticeships available, awarded by Proskills, the Sector Skills Council for the Process Industries, albeit levels of funding are age dependent. University graduates may also find, especially the Technical Certificates, useful as industry re-orientation programmes.