UKAS Training Academy Trainer

Trevor Thompson started his career applying electronics to classical metrology at the National Physical Laboratory. He joined the UK’s first national accreditation scheme for testing laboratories, NATLAS at its launch back in 1981. He has assessed and accredited many laboratories, mainly Electrical and Physical while serving UKAS for many years. Trevor was the UK BSI representative at ISO/CASCO for the rewriting of ISO/IEC 17025 and a member of the drafting group. He also represented UKAS at EA and ILAC level and is a Fellow of the Institute of Measurement and Control. His main interest is presently in the promulgation of the understanding of the new version of the Standard, Decision Rules, simple uncertainty of measurement regimes and laboratory management systems offering added value through accreditation. Trevor has written and delivered laboratory accreditation training material worldwide.

Tell us about your career at UKAS

I started my career in Accreditation with the first National Testing Laboratory Accreditation Scheme (NATLAS) in 1981, having been one of the founding staff from the National Physical Laboratory. Through my years at the National Measurement Accreditation Service (NAMAS) I assessed many testing and calibration laboratories, eventually managing other staff as well as continuing to assess labs. Now I am partly retired and deliver training for UKAS.

How did you get into metrology and accreditation?

For many years my interest has been in encouraging laboratories to understand and adopt best practice in negative-overhead management systems, easy calibration and traceability regimes and uncertainty budgets. In recent years I represented BSI at ISO/CASCO in the re-writing of ISO/IEC 17025 to ensure the 2017 version incorporated simplifications and enhancements.

What made you go into training?

Over the years of managing many technical staff, I learned that people joining UKAS have great sector specific knowledge, but they may not have a full understanding of the point of some management system requirements, especially about traceability of measurement and uncertainty budgets. In response to my observation, I began writing training material I could re-use as UKAS grew fast and I recruited more staff. My involvement in writing the new version of ISO/IEC 17025 stimulated demand for my skills in training all UKAS staff in the changing philosophy involved, in particular relating to Risk and Opportunity and in Decision Rules for conformity. So, I started writing and delivering significant amounts of technical training and found I enjoyed that.

What do you most enjoy about being a Trainer?

Rather like with assessment work, training provides the opportunity to make a difference and enables lab personnel “to be a better lab”. This does not mean working harder or spending more money but rather it entails taking a risk-based approach and having slick operations with appropriate and necessary equipment and processes.

Tell us about the first training you delivered?

I’d been doing increasing amounts of training anyway as I managed and developed new staff, but the first formal training course I ever delivered was in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s. I was petrified! They did not speak much English and they had just started migrating from the ex-Soviet system.  I survived and from that time I have considered it important to observe and cater for varying cultures around the world but without compromising standards.

Tell us about a funny experience in one of the training courses you delivered?

I loved the role playing in early versions of the laboratory assessor training course, with excuses for non-compliance and ridiculous situations.  After a funny experience (abroad again) when as lead assessor I asked the Lab Manager how he proposed to fix some findings that were indicating non-conformity he said the solution was for me and my family to go on a holiday to stay in his villa in the nearby mountains. I had the hardest time keeping a straight face as I declined, and I’ve used that in the role-playing since.

What do you enjoy about working for UKAS?

I think my main enjoyment is based on believing that I can make a difference, enabling people to make better measurements, getting the “right answer” more easily and efficiently. I’m a scientist who started by spending all my time in a laboratory with measuring instruments while I developed calibration systems, it was only when I undertook accreditation work that I fully appreciated that people and communication with them is the most important factor.

Finally, tell us about some of your interests and/or hobbies

Technically, making measurements correctly, with uncertainty of measurement to suit. Decision Rules!

At home: Old incredibly unreliable electro-mechanical devices like vinyl-playing jukeboxes, fruit machines and the like. I am one of the few people that can still build and mend valve amplifiers and power supplies as well as antennae and transmitters for HF and VHF. I hold a UK amateur radio transmitting licence, now rarely used.

To date I have had a good and satisfying career in measurement work, I would like the younger generation to have that opportunity and hopefully make better measurements in industry long into the future, worldwide.