If you are reading this article, you probably already know what fluid power is, how most of us ended up in this field, and how hard it is to find your replacement.
For those of you not familiar with fluid power, it is many times referred to as the “hidden giant”—unmatched power density working behind the scenes to reliably perform complex tasks without fail. This could also describe those employed in fluid power—those who reliably work behind the scenes with hidden talents, ensuring complex hydraulic or pneumatic systems do not fail.
Interestingly, most of us did not choose this field. Very few of us planned to be fluid power professionals when we left home for college or the military or our new job. Somewhere along the way, we were introduced to the confusing “black box” that moved the cylinders. But with time, we stuck it out, and the logic of fluid power filtered in and became a new language.
And yes, in many ways, you are “irreplaceable.” Now, don’t let it go to your head, but it’s true that you probably can’t hire your own replacement. The industry is losing professionals faster than we can bring new ones in and train them. And yes, I said, “train them.” Unfortunately, we will most likely have to train our new recruits. In time, I would like to believe academia will catch up and fill this need better, but until then we must teach the necessary skills and best practices to those interested.
The difficulty now lies in proving that these newly trained employees are capable of building, testing, and installing equipment properly. Or that the engineers are designing systems that are safe and efficient. Or providing the verification that the maintenance foremen, who never let the hydraulic systems fail, are applying the principles of fluid power without error. We all know people in our industry who have excellent mechanical ability and who understand fluid power systems – the people who are the “hidden giants” working in your company. Unfortunately, most of those people have never bothered to become fluid power certified.
I will make another assumption that, if you are reading this article in the Fluid Power Journal, you probably hold a certification through the IFPS. Maybe at some point, you realized a certification would help your career by separating you from your colleagues. Or maybe your boss required you to get certified because the company rightly believes that the proof of knowledge will lift your company above the competition. If you have reaped any benefit from your certification, then I ask you, I challenge you, to bring one new person into fluid power.
I challenge you to find one candidate, not currently active in IFPS or holding a certification, to apply for and pass any fluid power certification offered by the International Fluid Power Society. For each successful candidate, I, Marti Wendel, will buy you and your successful referral one cup of Starbucks coffee. I believe that fluid power is currently the best career field a young engineer or technician can choose, and certification is the proof of knowledge that is necessary for his or her career advancement. I hope you take me up on my challenge and share the prospect of success with a new fluid power professional.
Disclaimer: Maximum 100 cups of coffee total, test must be taken in 2015, candidate must pass test. “May the odds be ever in your favor.”