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The transfer of skills is a major challenge for any company. In the composite industry, comprehensive know-how is needed to draw the maximum benefits from these materials. We asked a composite training specialist what was so special about these materials.
(Published on March-April 2009 – JEC Magazine #47)
AN INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS LITTLE, DIRECTOR, CTC COMPOSITES
JEC Composites Magazine: How did you become a trainer in composite materials?
Chris Little: After having been a boat builder for 20 years, I was made redundant. I was retrained to teach and then worked for a local college with composites on the curriculum. I began to specialise in the composite field to meet the local industry’s training requirements. I was hired by Vestas to help develop its training school for new candidates joining the company, where I ended up being named training officer. After 5 years of continual growth at Vestas, I moved on to start my own composite training business.
JCM: What skills should a trainer have?
C. L.: Composite trainers should have the knowledge and experience needed to pass on their skills to candidates. They also need to be patient and communicate well so candidates can understand and assimilate the skills and knowledge required. It is also important to keep up to date with current composite practices so they can be incorporated into the training programmes.
JCM: What is the biggest challenge in you job?
C. L.: There are a lot of skills in the industry but people do not always have an overall picture of the situation, which means that mistakes can happen. The biggest challenge is to get people to understand that you are making both the material and the component. Therefore, you have total control over quality, unlike other materials where you are simply given the material to make a component. We need to build up a pool of qualifications available to the industry both at the operative level and through the university system. The industry worldwide does not have enough qualified people to meet future needs. One of the biggest challenges facing the industry is filling these gaps through education and training.
JCM: What is special about teaching composite materials?
C. L.: I think that composite materials are exciting because they have such a wide range of applications. I am able to explain the advantages of composites to a new group every week. It is an ever-evolving technology that requires teachers to keep up to date with the latest practices used in the industry. It is very important to remain in touch with the industry at all times. I really enjoy teaching composite materials as you can even learn about processes or different ways of doing things from the candidates.
Composites Training Consortium
CTC approaches composite training in two ways – either by using existing qualifications, or by developing bespoke skill packages that fulfil a company's individual requirements.
Its trainers also recognize how important it is for candidates to be able to apply the knowledge they have gained to the complex and ever-evolving composite markets. CTC-trained technicians return to the shop floor with the knowledge and confidence required to utilize advanced composite techniques and technologies to the full.
JCM: How do you think composites will be used in the future?
C. L.: I see the use of composites increasing year on year as people find innovative new ways of using the material. The renewable energy sector is a good example of an emerging new outlet for composites. Composites are increasingly becoming a viable option to traditional materials. I think there is a need to develop greener materials and look at how the industry recycles composite products.