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LDAF’s Metrology Lab at work for Louisiana

by Whitney Corley, LDAF Program Manager of Metrology

Metrology is a critical part of the nation’s agroeconomy, but this niche field is facing a critical talent shortage. The LDAF Metrology Laboratory, though, is answering the call to support the entire region. Since 2019 the southwest region of the United States, of which Louisiana is a part, has seen more than 70% of its metrologist workforce retire or resign. Since the profession necessarily requires on-the-job training to attain the required signatory status, one or more metrologists leaving can have a domino effect that can ultimately end in a laboratory having to close altogether.

LDAF Program Manager of Metrology Whitney Corley explains, “Our field depends on signatory metrologists working with metrologists in training as they work toward signatory status, and that takes a minimum of one year but often two or three. If a lab loses all of their signatories, and some labs only have one to start with, then that lab has to close with no real pathway to reopen.”

Even when a lab has more than one signatory metrologist, they almost never have more than three. So besides the strain on the talent pool, losing a metrologist puts a strain on the remaining metrologist’s workload. This leads to long wait times for calibration appointments or, even worse, turning away customers. Louisiana’s lab, however, has managed to avoid this problem through deliberate succession planning over the last several years. Even though the lab has lost two signatory metrologists since 2019, that succession planning has left the lab with two signatory metrologists on staff today and a third in training.

Louisiana’s metrology team didn’t stop at just succession planning, though. Recognizing the growing problem across the region, they have worked to increase their capacity and have increased their workload by 23% in that time as they take on customers from neighboring states with labs that find themselves short-staffed or shuttered altogether. And, just this past year, the metrology lab has reached outside its official region to help neighboring Mississippi. When Mississippi found itself with no signatory metrologists, Louisiana entered into an MOU that sees Mississippi sending its trainee metrologists to Louisiana’s lab to get their training.

The Louisiana Metrology Lab is still not done growing its work, however. Currently, it is rated to perform Mass Echelon III and Volume Echelon II VT calibrations, but they have an action plan in place to grow its scope of measurement to include Mass Echelon II and Volume Echelon I gravimetric calibrations by 2024. Through thoughtful succession planning, growing its customer base, training other states, and working to grow its technical capacity, the Louisiana Metrology Lab has not only managed to thrive in a time that saw so many metrology labs struggle, but it has managed to position itself as a model for the entire region.

Pictured above from left to right: Paul Floyd, Director of Agro-Consumer Services, Jennifer Adair, Metrologist, Bobby Fletcher, Assistant Commissioner of Agro-Consumer Services, Mike Strain, Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, Gene Cavalier, Assistant Director of Agro-Consumer Services, Whitney Corley, Program Manager of Metrology, Tyler Holmes, Metrologist.