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CIP Level 1 Course Updated for Coatings Inspectors

Photos courtesy of AMPP

Together with coatings industry experts, in-house instructional designers, and experienced instructors, the Association for Materials Protection and Performance (AMPP) has redesigned its Coating Inspector Program (CIP) Level 1 course. The concept of the redesign is to bring together the best components of NACE International’s legacy CIP program and the legacy Protective Coatings Inspector (PCI) program of SSPC: The Society for Protective Coatings.

As the first step in AMPP’s flagship coatings inspector program, the CIP Level 1 course teaches more than 5,000 students annually to properly perform basic coating inspections using nondestructive techniques and instrumentation.

With three skill levels, CIP certifications are recognized globally and throughout many industries. As NACE CIP and SSPC PCI programs continue to be specified around the world, those inspector credentials will remain active until the industry has fully adopted AMPP credentials. The program’s new levels are:

• Basic Coatings Inspector (Level 1)

• Certified Coatings Inspector (Level 2)

• Senior Certified Coatings Inspector (Level 3)

“In order to keep up with advancements in the field of coatings inspection and best practices in adult learning methodologies, we brought together the best minds in the industry to update the corrosion and coating industry’s most recognized course for professionals looking to embark upon a new career pathway as a coating inspector,” said Alicia Yust, senior manager of learning and development at AMPP.

While the pre-existing CIP Level 1 was a mainstay for the coatings industry for more than 20 years, the course’s basic structure had not changed significantly in several years.

“The Level 1 course is known all over the world, in many different countries,” said Tom Higginbotham, chair of AMPP’s education committee and a category manager at PPG Industrial Coatings. “It’s been an excellent course for a long time. But we realized that it really was time to update it.”

Increased Inspector Focus

Based on industry feedback, AMPP’s newly rewritten course now includes lectures, class discussions, group exercises, and hands-on practical labs. In addition, multiple activities, case studies, and knowledge checks are incorporated throughout every chapter to further student engagement and content retention.

With a heightened focus on the inspector’s role and responsibilities, application of key concepts in real-world scenarios, and inspection testing and instrumentation, the course features four full days of hands-on, practical instruction. This was designed to allow students to get first-hand experience with actual tools and instruments that they will often use on the job.

In total, rewriting the CIP Level 1 course was a multi-year initiative and involved feedback from numerous industry focus groups, student evaluations, instructor and member interviews and surveys, equipment manufacturers, job task analysis workshops, and nine pilot courses. This thorough process resulted in a new course with more interactive elements than ever before — and one that will demand more of its students.

“Students in this new course will have more hands-on time than they’ve ever had,” said Higginbotham, who composed a letter to AMPP members explaining the various updates. “Nothing improves learning better than interactive exercises. Students taking the new CIP Level 1 will be required to work harder with these exercises and homework, which will result in better understanding and better inspectors.”

The origins of this rewritten course trace back to more than two years ago, according to Higginbotham. It was based on the idea that AMPP would look to industry professionals to help guide its course content.

“We started this effort with a task group of industry professionals of various backgrounds, many of whom hire inspectors regularly, to determine what a ‘Level 1’ inspector should know upon completion of this course,” said Higginbotham, who discussed the changes at greater length during a CoatingsPro Interview Series podcast.

“In addition to hours of meetings, two job task analyses were performed and a thorough review, including surveys with all active AMPP instructors and manufacturers, was conducted,” Higginbotham said. “The result of the rewrite, which involved more than 40 individuals from industry — including representatives from manufacturers, contractors, and active industry professionals — is that we have the best coatings inspector course we’ve ever produced.”

Incorporating Legacy Organizations

Higginbotham stressed that AMPP has a formal feedback system, which was used throughout the development process. “Our peers vote on each piece of feedback submitted, and those which reach consensus move forward for future inclusion in courses,” he said. “In the case of the inspector program rewrite, we had thousands of pieces of feedback, as well as two existing courses to work from (CIP and PCI). When the course was completed, pilots began. The course has been through nine pilots, with at least 15 different instructors, over 150 students involved, and multiple instructional designers auditing each course.”

Higginbotham notes that input from both legacy organizations was incorporated as part of the development phase. “When we merged SSPC and NACE together, we took excellent people from both organizations,” he said. “It’s not a one-sided NACE organization. It’s not biased. There are some excellent people from SSPC that are part of our organization, and they serve on committees, etc. We have diversity in what we’re doing.”

“NACE was [heavier] with inspectors, cathodic protection, and corrosion, and SSPC was heavier on the applicator side,” Higginbotham said. “So, those two really complement each other. I can assure you that when there’s a decision to be made about a course, the best decision is going to be made as to the best program. In this case, we looked at both programs and we found some information in the PCI that we did not have in the CIP, so we added things from PCI that were not already there. So, you’re getting information from both courses.”

Updated Course Features

New features of AMPP’s updated course, which now runs for six days instead of the traditional five, include:

• Nine hands-on labs;

• Six days of instruction: two days theory and four days practical;

• New state-of-the-art equipment;

• New photos and custom videos, drawings, and animations;

• A full-color student workbook.

“Sometimes it’s good just to start over,” Higginbotham said. “We looked to the industry and said, ‘Okay, what does a Level 1 inspector need to know? What would you expect? If you hired a Level 1 inspector, what would you expect them to know on the job?’ So we started from scratch, and we ended up with more information than was in the previous courses.”

A cornerstone of CIP is the corps of instructors who introduce students to the skills, knowledge, and responsibilities of a coatings inspector by drawing on their own professional experience. Each CIP Level 1 class is taught by two experienced instructors who have undergone an extensive selection process and thorough training program.

“Without question, we have the most rigorous instructor program of any coatings program in the industry,” said Pam Nicoletti, senior director of knowledge and learning at AMPP. “It’s a multi-year process just to enter the instructor pool, and it could easily take another 10 years to achieve the role of Lead Instructor.”

Feedback on the New Course

According to Higginbotham, early feedback on the revised course suggests that it is more difficult for students. However, that’s by design, as part of an effort to make them more immediately ready for challenging on-the-job scenarios.

“I tell students who have taken the old course that this course is actually harder,” Higginbotham said. “I know students probably don’t want to hear that, but that’s a good thing because they learn the material better. There are over 50 interactive learning exercises that the students have to do every day. They have homework every night they have to work through, and they have to work through exercises to reinforce what we go over during the day on the slides.”

In his teaching experience, Higginbotham said he noticed a difference in knowledge even prior to the course’s conclusion. “We have one large lab in CIP Level 1,” he explained. “It’s designed to be a day where students go out and use tools and different things, and we try to get them exposure to what an applicator goes through. It’s preparation tools and spraying coatings, and things like that. We’re not trying to make an applicator out of them, but during that process, they have to fill out a logbook. It’s kind of like a daily report as an inspector. What’s exciting about the new course is by the time they get to that large lab, they’ve already done a couple of other labs the day before.”

“In my case, when they got to the bigger lab, they already had experience, and they really knew what to do,” Higginbotham said. “There weren’t many questions asked, and they got right to work. That really stood out — the fact that they knew what they were doing by that time.”

For more information, contact: AMPP, (800) 797-6223,

The full version of this article was originally published in the September 2022 issue of CoatingsPro. Republished with permission.


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