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Empowering laser processing personnel

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Luísa Coutinho, director of the European Welding Federation, explains why an evolving qualification system is pivotal to addressing new demands in industry

Technological and societal developments are driving the transformation of Europe. From the increasing adoption of mobile devices as the primary source of information, to the rise of online learning options, and from the digitisation of many traditional industrial processes, to the new ones entering the mainstream – change is all around us. 

Welding technology is not an exception, and as such is fast-moving towards more complex and demanding processes in response to increasing requirements from manufacturers, architects and designers, who continue to push its execution boundaries. As a result, new technologies have evolved and are fast becoming mainstream. One such example is laser welding, which started being used in industry in the early 90s, and is now widely adopted. 

An evolving qualification system for today’s and tomorrow’s manufacturing challenges

Laser materials processing has increasingly found its space in industry, given its versatility and ability to execute even the most difficult and precise jobs. To ensure a quicker pace of adoption, the qualification of skilled personnel is paramount, and qualification systems need to evolve to address these challenges.

Traditional qualification systems must adopt new learning methods to address the changes taking place in different industries. There is a need to ensure that the training and professional qualifications available comply with the ongoing technical innovation and industrial demand. 

The European Welding Federation (EWF) has been at the forefront of industrial innovation in manufacturing since 1992, developing qualifications and adjusting existing ones in line with technological and industrial advances. The organisation has provided international qualifications for manufacturing professionals that are widely recognised in the 28 European countries that are members of the EWF. Through a license agreement with IIW (International Institute of Welding) most of these qualifications are also available in 16 countries beyond Europe.

The decision to continuously update existing qualification guidelines and launch new ones enables the EWF to provide professionals with the necessary qualifications to ensure the industry’s advancement, and enable them to be able to both pre-empt and respond to technological change. This is a crucial component of the EWF’s mission to be an essential global network in the field of joining, welding, cutting and related technologies.

The EWF develops qualifications in line with technological and industrial advances to ensure that laser personnel are equipped with the skills needed to address the challenges faced in modern manufacturing,

To lay the groundwork for the qualification of laser processing personnel that could respond to industry needs, the EWF has engaged laser professionals with strong field knowledge to prepare a training guideline. It is currently available for use with all 28 member EWF countries and structured in two levels – basic and comprehensive – for processes including cutting (ELC), welding (ELW), surface treatment (ELST) and processing (ELP).

Qualifications in additive manufacturing 

More recently, EWF has launched international professional qualifications in metal additive manufacturing, which are of relevance to the current labour market and reduce the hurdle of competence recognition through assuring the reliability of the skills of the diploma holder.

In order to do this, EWF brought together experts from industry, training centres, universities and research organisations to discuss and define technical content and qualifications needed for present and future professionals in metal additive manufacturing. This led to the development of The International Metal Additive Manufacturing Qualification System (EWFAM), for the following professionals: directed energy deposition (laser) operator; laser powder bed fusion operator; metal am engineer; directed energy deposition (laser) engineer; and laser powder bed fusion engineer.

The course content of the EWF additive manufacturing diplomas includes the science, technology, engineering and mathematics competences necessary for the AM sector. It facilitates the bridging between companies and higher education institutions, by including innovative teaching approaches, such as real-case problem solving methodologies and work-based learning scenarios – as highlighted in the ‘Renewed EU agenda for higher education’ 2017. 

It has been designed to allow flexible learning pathways for adults, by developing qualifications based on short-term competence units which are/will be required by the AM industry based on skills forecast and the identification of technological trends, according to current and upcoming needs. 

An expanding ecosystem

Beyond the most obvious benefits of the EWF’s harmonised approach to training, qualification and certification is its robust and transparent quality system, widely accepted by the ecosystem of individuals and organisations involved (trainers, trainees, training institutions, national certification bodies, and companies). This is the backbone for ensuring that the same skills are provided for any person holding an EWF diploma, awarded throughout the world. 

For the coming years, our goal is to grow our ecosystem by establishing a new and far-reaching partnership with industry’s relevant associations. Through this ecosystem, we will continue to evolve our international harmonised qualification system to ensure it meets industry needs, and contribute to a vibrant and competitive industry – one that attracts talented new professionals and provides a path for the workforce to keep moving in pace with the industry.

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