Have you ever wondered what happens when you flip on a light switch?
Fluid power might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but electricity suppliers and transmission companies rely on equipment controlled by hydraulic and electronic systems to install and maintain our energy supply.
Technical fluid power knowledge is paramount for the OEM designers and production teams that integrate machine systems and also for the operators who count on safety, performance, and reliability in diverse and potentially dangerous environments. Even fleet managers rely on trained fluid power service technicians to maintain high levels of vehicle uptime, a leading metric in managing operation costs and profitability.
To continuously improve performance in these and other areas, employers need educated workers who possess the skills to meet current and future challenges. IFPS training and certification programs are designed specifically to help companies in the utilities market meet these needs, and they also offer employees an academic alternative that can pay off big for employee and employer alike.
According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau report, one-quarter of adults hold educational credentials other than an academic degree. The report found that alternative credentials give workers the opportunity to achieve higher earnings, and that traditional scholastic education environments are not the sole place for employers to find the talent needed in today’s challenging economy.
“Getting an academic degree is not the only way for people to develop skills that pay off in the labor market,” said Stephanie Ewert, a demographer with the Census Bureau’s Education and Social Stratification Branch and co-author of the report, Measuring Alternative Educational Credentials: 2012.
For people who already have academic degrees, the report points out that those who seek professional certifications have an even better opportunity to obtain better pay across many fields.
Employers stand to benefit, too. Through training and certification programs, like those offered by IFPS for the utility market, workers gain the technical skills that companies need to improve products and processes, reduce costs, and boost the bottom line.
For more than 50 years, IFPS certification programs have been developed for employers and workers seeking the specialized education required of fluid power system designers, specialists, technicians, and mechanics. Nowhere is the advantage of education and certification better demonstrated than in the utility market, where IFPS programs are a bright idea, indeed.
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 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.”
Marti Wendel, CFPE, CFPS, CFPCC, is global sales manager for Curtiss-Wright Sprague Products in Brecksville, Ohio. She’s also the 2015 IFPS President. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would like to thank each and every member of the IFPS for making the Society what it is today. There is a bond of professional fellowship among us that I have not found anywhere else in my career, and I say that after serving in both the Atlantic and the Pacific U.S. Navy submarine fleets. You—the Society members—hold us together as we move forward to make the fluid power industry a great place to be and work. For that I am grateful to be a small part.
I have been fortunate to be intimately involved with the Society for about a half-dozen years. The more I have gotten to know our members, our mission, how we do what we do, and why we do it, the more committed I have become to sharing my experiences with others to give everything I can give to support the never-ending push for fluid power as a powerful industry made up of you amazing folks.
It may not be apparent (at least, we hope it’s not), but within the Society, behind the scenes, there is a small and extraordinarily dedicated group of team members who put lots of sweat and blood into not only keeping the daily machinery well-lubricated, but also sharpening our focus to keep all of us within the Society on the leading edge of the industry.
We are convinced that fluid power as an industry would benefit from more public awareness. The board of directors long ago formed a standing committee dedicated to increasing this awareness. The Fluid Power Journal is one of the vehicles driving awareness out to the public doorstep all year round. The Journal represents the bulk of our printed media efforts. We have many others. We support and promote fluid power literature, much of which has helped many of us to grow professionally.
We have many Accredited Instructors, highly qualified members who travel far and wide to bring fluid power awareness, education, certifications, and a friendly face to individuals, groups, and entire companies all over the map.
Our dedicated team at the Society headquarters in Cherry Hill, N.J., as well as many board members, also travel to professional gatherings, expositions and shows, talent displays, educational challenges, and conventions to bring a fluid power presence to folks in dire need of the solutions our industry has crafted out of (some would say) a barnyard hobby into a master-filled profession.
We have always had supportive efforts in education, and several years ago we teamed up with the Fluid Power Education Foundation (FPEF) to bring scholarships to high school students, college students, career-changing professionals, veterans of the armed forces, and others. We have worked with the U.S. Department of Labor to bring awareness and recognition of fluid power position titles and certification/education levels into legislation. We have worked with the U.S. Department of Energy to bring awareness and further utilization of fluid power solutions to the energy crisis plaguing U.S. manufacturing, distribution, and end-user efforts, and everyone in between, industrial processing, power generation, etc.
An enormous part of successfully building awareness is reaching out to more audiences. We are convinced that the biggest unrealized audience, those with the most potential to make the biggest impact on fluid power as a whole, is the younger crowd. That is what drives our efforts in education, scholarships, certifications, achievements, and awards.
Several years ago we began looking into the possibility of working with the Boy Scouts of America. I remember sitting in the meeting when this topic came up. It was presented by an individual who clearly represents the rock-solid foundation of values that the Boy Scouts offers to its youth—dedication, commitment, team work, loyalty, etc. The board of directors was excited, and we formed a small group of folks with tons of Boy Scout experience and current involvement (and one dedicated female, the up and coming 2015 IFPS president!). This subcommittee has worked tirelessly by volunteering time and resources, expertise, and contacts to present the Scouts with a Fluid Power Merit Badge, which is currently being processed for consideration and formal approval by the organization.
If we can bring fluid power awareness to kids in this age group, we can equip them with the kinds of questions that could push fluid power into the high school curriculum. If we can reach high school students, they can enroll in their college programs targeting the courses that will educate them to excel in a fluid power profession. If we can reach current college students, we can help those who may be struggling with choosing a career path, or struggling financially, with classes along that line. If we can reach non-fluid-power professionals, we can equip them with education and skills they may be looking for to change paths or simply improve their current market value. If we can reach homebound military veterans, we can show just a portion of our gratitude for their service by offering financial assistance in improving their private-sector job skills. If we can reach any of these folks the way that we have reached and continue to reach you—our members—with awareness, recognition, education, and certification, then they can have a powerful impact on the potential of the fluid power industry. They can change the world.
Over and over again, we see the door of opportunity opening up to shine more and more light on the wonders and benefits that fluid power has to offer to folks everywhere who otherwise would suffer with little or no knowledge of all they could achieve with fluid power. And none of this would be possible—zero doors would be found open—without you, the coming-together of fluid power professionals striving for more and more and more. What can we give to the world of industry? More, more, MORE!
This is why I do this. This is why I volunteer to help. This is why I keep my membership current. It’s why I get and maintain my certifications. It’s why I’m grateful. And it’s why I am able to share my experience with each of you.
As we reach out to you—and we will not stop reaching out to you!—I invite you to reach out to each other. Reach out to us and share your experiences, your talents, even your criticisms. You can make the fluid power community a better place.
I thank you for all you’ve already given. Our progress is apparent to everyone.