Q&A with Senior NDE Lecturer, Billy Dalgarno

Hi Billy, can you start by letting us know a bit about your role at TWI? What is your career background and why did you choose to become a lecturer?

My role at TWI is a very satisfying one. I present welding /NDT training courses and examinations to the general public. I started working in engineering 55 years ago when I was recruited and indentured to Redpath Dorman Long as a boilermaker apprentice. An interesting point is that the location I served my apprenticeship at is the exact same location TWI is sited in Middlesbrough today; so I started my working life and I will retire from the same place.

I was trained under the EITB (Engineering Industrial Training Board) scheme as a plater/welder. I learned all the skills, hands-on and theoretical, for five years. During my apprenticeship, I attended day release college to achieve City & Guilds HNC /HND certificates in Mechanical Engineering.

When I was 21, I joined the Boilermakers Society who advised and encouraged members to travel after completing their apprenticeship; it was customary, in those days, to become a “journeyman”. This is when a tradesman learns his skills by travelling to work for different employers picking up the tricks of the trade, before returning to work as a full-fledged journeyman. This was a very exciting time of my life, I initially worked in shipyards, before moving onto pressure vessel fabrication. I learnt how to fabricate package boilers with foster wheeler in Hartlepool and in Berlin, Germany. I travelled abroad to work in the German shipyards in Keil, where we worked on the construction of 385,000 ton super tankers. I also worked in Hamburg doing ship repair, it mostly included working as a ship welder in an old concentration camp at Travemundi, Germany.

Eventually, I came back and started to work in the UK, building petro-chemical installations at ICI Wilton’s complex and Monsanto Chemicals. After getting married I needed more regular employment to secure a mortgage for my first house, so I started working for British Steel. Repairing components and fabricating replacement parts at the Redcar Blast Furnace site, and on the Leckenby BOSP/Comcast Plants and Rolling Mills. Sadly, in the 1970s a lot of the “older” industry in the UK was closing to blend the UK economy with the European Common Market. A sad time which was cushioned with retraining benefits to learn new skills. I trained in NDT and became an inspector for RTD in Holland. Whilst working with RTD, I developed my skillset into advanced NDT/AUT skills with RTD Pantatron, where I helped with developing advanced inspection systems for specialised applications. RTD were an international company and worked worldwide. I travelled internationally, for circa 15 years with RTD until I joined VSEL; building naval submarines: Hunter Killers, Deep Dive and Trident Nuclear Class boats. Several years working on heavy fabrication left me seeking a change, which I found with Shaw Pipeline Services as a senior AUT technician; building pipelines on land and subsea.

After working worldwide for most of my life, a vacancy presented itself at TWI, which suited my advanced skillset and provided an opportunity to teach and train future tradespeople and inspectors. I could give them first-hand experience and knowledge of the industrial environment they were seeking to work in.

What led you to teach at TWI and how is your experience here going so far?

I have worked with TWI for a total of 16 years and I thoroughly enjoy it. I am going to be 70 years old this year and I still have the drive to develop a class of students into a functional group. I cannot see a time when I will want to retire.

Can you tell us what courses have you been teaching at TWI?

Whilst working with TWI, I teach or have taught:

  • Senior Pipeline Inspector ( BGas)
  • Senior Welding Inspector
  • BGas Paint Inspector
  • BGas Agricultural / Environmental Inspector
  • Radiography, to Level 3
  • (RPS)Radiation Protection Supervisor
  • Basic Radiation Safety (BRS)
  • Ultrasonic Phased Array to Level 3
  • Ultrasonic TOFD to Level 2
  • Advanced AUT Techniques to Level 3
  • Ultrasonics to Level 3
  • Manual Ultrasonic Testing of weld in 3.1 plates; 3.2 pipes; 3.8 nozzles; up to Node Joints 3.9
  • Magnetic particle Inspection to Level 3
  • Dye Penetrant Inspection to Level 3
  • Specialised Advanced UT Methods ie, Phased Array TOFD, AUT, Long Range UT
  • CSWIP Level I, plant Inspection

I currently mainly teach BGAS disciplines, but I am very confident I could pick up the CSWIP and PCN disciplines too.

What new things do you think your students can learn while training and teaching at TWI with you?

Most candidates have experience in the subject they seek certification for; so they have a base understanding before they enrol with TWI. However, when attending my courses, they get an insight into real life situations; I always include some interesting tales and give them real situations to discuss. Some courses are now presented online so the candidate will only get the same experience as reading a magazine article.