National Physical Laboratory: Training opportunities offer crucial made-to-measure career development

Posted on 5 Sep 2019 by The Manufacturer

Keith Bevan, Head of Manufacturing and Training at the National Physical Laboratory, reveals how NPL provides training and upskilling opportunities, making lifelong learning an indispensable part of the UK’s industrial and manufacturing sectors.

The need for training and upskilling programmes within UK manufacturing is both well understood and well known.

At the start of this year, a British Chambers of Commerce survey indicated that manufacturers are facing the biggest skilled labour shortage for almost 30 years, leading to stagnating levels of growth and business confidence.

CROP -Engineer Teaching Apprentice Apprenticeship Levy Training Skills Lifelong Learning - image courtesy of Depositphotos.

More recently, research from skills body City & Guilds Group found that manufacturing workers in the UK are missing out on crucial opportunities to upskill.

It revealed that just over 30% of people working in the manufacturing industry learned no new workplace skills last year, and more than half felt that they did not get enough help and support to upskill from their employer.

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is making strenuous efforts to provide a wide range of practical training courses designed to meet the needs of industry.

This is part of a series of articles about the skills crisis facing the UK manufacturing sector.

The series examines some of the serious problems affecting skills and training – and some of the positive initiatives aimed at producing a manufacturing workforce fit for the future. 


With a mixture of topics ranging from dimensional measurement and uncertainty, through to measurement of mass, temperature, humidity and instrument calibration, NPL uses its close working relationship with UK manufacturing to provide the training that industry needs.

NPL’s training courses and qualifications are pitched at different technical skills levels, from beginner through to expert, and sit within a unique training framework which enables progression and recognition.

Setting the standard

As the UK’s National Measurement Institute (NMI), NPL sets the standards in metrology, the science of measurement.

NPL training is delivered in their own laboratories, on customer premises, or students can study via e-learning – image courtesy of NPL.
NPL training is delivered in their own laboratories, on customer premises, or students can study via e-learning – image courtesy of NPL.

This makes it very well positioned to deliver training covering standards, measurement uncertainty, calibration and traceability.

These are key to ensuring that measurements are comparable between laboratories and organisations, and that the data created meet the accreditation or specified standards required in industry.

Apprenticeships and addressing the skills pipeline

The Level 3 Metrology Technician Standard is the first nationally recognised standard in metrology. It enables Apprenticeship Levy-paying companies in England to develop the skills that will complement their business, support succession planning and develop workplace knowledge and behaviours.

The curriculum of the apprentice training is underpinned by NPL’s base as a world-leading centre of excellence that provides cutting-edge measurement science, engineering and technology, and is a truly unique way to ensure that industry has skilled technicians for measurement, inspection, instrument calibration and manufacturing support.

National Physical Laboratory =After all, ‘If you can’t measure something, you can’t improve it' - image courtesy of NPL.
After all, ‘If you can’t measure something, you can’t improve it’ – image courtesy of NPL.

After all, ‘If you can’t measure something, you can’t improve it,’ as business guru Peter Drucker once brilliantly observed.

Courses tailored to your needs

NPL’s training courses have a high proportion of practical skills development, combined with classroom sessions or e-learning. Classroom sessions are typically carried out in groups of less than 12 individuals, with state-of-the-art technical equipment.

Many courses sit within Ofqual’s (Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) regulated qualifications framework. All are part of NPL’s own training framework, which provides skills progression and recognition from entry through to expert level.

There are bespoke measurement and calibration training programmes to fill specific skills gaps and address organisational challenges in a cost-effective way. Elements from existing NPL courses can be combined as desired, or NPL can design a customised curriculum to meet specific needs.

Learning can be classroom-based, online, or a mixture of both – essentially a blended solution.

A number of industry-leading training providers deliver the training, which can be done at NPL’s laboratories in Teddington or at a customer’s premises.

Working closely together

NPL works closely with development and leadership teams to assess training requirements and design the training needed to upskill a given workforce.

Leadership Employee Enagement Collaboration Innovation - Stock-Image

It regularly works with the world’s leading precision and advanced manufacturers across wide-ranging sectors including aerospace, automotive and medical, to design and deliver the training that will give a workforce the exact skills and knowledge they need.

Learn anytime, anywhere

With time away from the day job being expensive and inconvenient, NPL has a growing portfolio of e-learning courses, which includes general measurement, dimensional measurement and specialist measurement.

Learners can benefit from a variety of measurement training courses accessible from any device, whenever it suits them, fitted around busy work schedules.

Real-world impact

NPL ensures that its cutting-edge measurement science has a positive impact in the real world, and transferring measurement skills from the laboratory to industry is an important part of that mission. NPL’s technological advances have been built on a foundation of reliable and internationally agreed standards of measurement.

NPL’s courses enable learners to make a difference within their workplaces. Instilling the right measurement skills and behaviours improves their organisation’s capabilities and ensures that measurements are consistent and, more importantly, trustworthy.

Supporting improvements in the manufacturing process provides employers with the opportunity to generate a return on training investment and, ultimately, potential cost savings to the business.

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About the National Physical Laboratory

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is the UK’s National Measurement Institute, developing and maintaining the national primary measurement standards.

Based in Teddington, south-west London, NPL employs more than 600 scientists. NPL also has regional bases across the UK, including at the University of Surrey, the University of Strathclyde, the University of Cambridge and the University of Huddersfield’s 3M Buckley Innovation Centre.

NPL’s world-leading measurement solutions are critical to business and government, accelerating research and innovation, improving quality of life and enabling trade.

NPL ensures its cutting-edge measurement science has a positive impact in the real world.

NPL is committed to sharing its expertise with industry to build and enhance measurement skills and capabilities. Metrology, the science of measurement, enables companies to question and plan processes, improve the quality of products and reduce costs.

This can have a direct impact on productivity and profitability. NPL’s training covers the importance of metrology, advancements in measurement science and the application of good measurement practices.