NATA celebrates Technical Assessors this National Volunteers Week – good for business, career development and Australia  

Industry News May 15, 2024
NATA celebrates Technical Assessors this National Volunteers Week – good for business, career development and Australia  
NATA team

Australia really is the lucky country. Blessed with natural beauty and an altruistic population. Whether it’s taking care of the land, others or contributing for the greater good. 

At NATA we have seen the power of the collective volunteers in action over the past eight decades. As part of our unique peer-review system, Australia has benefitted from industry subject matter experts, pooling their collective knowledge into our accreditation framework. 

We filter the best in their field and train our Technical Assessors (TAs) in conformity assessment. Together with our own Lead Assessors (LAs), these teams view the standards of practice and share this knowledge collectively through the accreditation process, which improves conformity assessment as a whole in Australia.  

We’ve heard from TAs that one of their highlights of being a technical assessor is the opportunity they receive to see firsthand how organisations operate within compliance of the relevant ISO conformity assessment standard (e.g. ISO/IEC 17025 or ISO 15189).  

Dr Robert (Bob) Symons is the Regional Technical Manager at Eurofins Environment Testing Australia & New Zealand. He’s been a Technical Assessor for NATA since 1979, after his supervisor at Environmental Protection Authority Victoria (EPA Vic) suggested it would be a good for his career prospects – “He was right, it was a great career move!”   

NATA’s Quality and Risk Manager, Samantha Hayes, was a Technical Assessor and had been for over a decade, before joining NATA, when she worked in the industry: “I viewed becoming a TA as an opportunity to expand my knowledge and expertise in my field. It’s benefited me massively from a personal growth perspective, opening doors to networking opportunities, not just within my field. It enhanced my credibility not just within my own company, and to colleagues, but for future job opportunities. Not to mention being personally very fulfilling. That sense of challenging and rewarding work ultimately led me to join NATA.”  

Danielle Dicker, Technical Manager at NATA, oversees the TA program within NATA and believes that the interaction with staff, from young scientists to industry experts, is particularly enriching for TAs: “You’re given access a wide range of people, from budding researchers at the start of their journey, through to business owners and experts in the field”. 

Every assessment is a chance to learn something new, says Symons. “Each TA has a different way of doing assessments, so you learn different things and understand what requirements the industry that you are part of has to meet.  NATA’s LAs are also at the frontline when it comes to ISO/IEC 17025 requirements so you can bring them back to your own laboratory and adopt them.” Hayes agrees that the mutual respect between LAs and TAs is essential for success, “Since joining NATA I can see just how critical TAs are to the entire accreditation process and how the relationship with the LA is integral to NATA’s leading peer-review framework”. 

Being a TA is a journey of growth, learning, collaboration, and contribution. As a TA you’ll have the opportunity to make a tangible difference in ensuring quality, reliability, and confidence. 

There’s wider value driven through NATA’s peer-review model, as many believe the companies that have a technical assessor, achieve a competitive advantage internally and externally: 

  • TAs are given advance notice and preparation of changes that are being made or discussed to relevant industry Standards.  
  • TAs can ensure continuous improvement and quality assurance. 
  • Enhance efficiencies. 
  • Provide opportunities for individual and collective improvement. 
  • Ability to identify potential risks. 
  • Improves the company’s brand reputation.  

Samantha Hayes continues: “As a TA I was afforded the chance to be taken out of my everyday work life, offering me new experiences, travel and perspective. It also allowed me to meet new people, establish unexpected new friendships and connections, all while expanding my knowledge.” 

Symons’s proudest moments have come when laboratory personnel genuinely thank him for his time – “As a TA I try to be as helpful as possible.  Yes, we write up conditions, but it is always in my mind to improve not only the assessed laboratory but also the industry with best practices.” Likewise for Hayes, who believes some of her proudest moments came from appreciative feedback. “It’s when there’s recognition that the NATA assessment was not about pass or fail but an opportunity to improve, to learn and expand upon what they are doing and how they can achieve. You know you’re doing something right when you hear you’ve given confidence to the laboratory that they are going in the right direction, and it shows we are actively engaged in supporting them.” 

It can even be a remarkable experience comments Symons: “Attending one overseas assessment, we were welcomed into a Grand Hall with everyone in the assessment party having their names up in lights for the introductory meeting with microphones at our desks!  During the day, I could not find any technical issues whatsoever, and I remember remarking at the end of the first day to my fellow TAs that no one else could find anything in their sections.  Truly remarkable!” 

The role of a TA goes beyond assessments, its fostering relationships, making positive impact on individuals, being able to share insights with like-minded professionals and stay at the forefront of industry developments. Your contribution as a TA will be valued, appreciated, and remembered for years to come. 

And remember volunteers have such an important role to play keeping Australians safe, and NATA would like to thank organisations that contribute by allowing staff time to give back to their local and wider communities. As Symons nicely summarises: “Yes it takes some time out of their day, but the rewards are immense and make up for the time volunteered in spades!”  

To hear more on how NATA’s peer-review benefits everyone, along with other Technical Assessor sessions, register for Accreditation Matters 2024 today