I am sometimes questioned about the IFPS logo on my shirt. Once I was asked if it was a symbol for some type of “secret society.” This gave me a chuckle and the opportunity for a short elevator speech, but it also gave me pause for thought.
I happily explained that the International Fluid Power Society is a non-profit organization that works to promote education, training, and professionalism in fluid power through certification. I also explained that I am a member and chair the committee for membership and chapters.
This prompted a quizzical look from the other person and the question, “Fluid power?” I went on to say “hydraulics and pneumatics,” and while doing so, in the back of my mind I was thinking…maybe we really are a secret society.
When you use the IFPS logos, stickers, lapel pins, lanyards, and other membership emblems, you are inviting questions and creating the possibility of helping someone advance in this industry. It is good to explain that IFPS benefits include discounts for training, certification, test fees, and even discounts for drug prescriptions and rental cars.
It doesn’t hurt to talk about the Fluid Power Journal, professional networking, professional development points, and the free study manuals and web seminars, but of even greater value is explaining how your membership affords you the opportunity to help others.
Maybe the curious person asking these questions is also involved in fluid power, but not certified. You can help them. Perhaps their teenage child is involved in a FIRST robotics program, or perhaps their recent graduate is struggling to find a career path. Volunteering to help a FIRST team or educate the younger graduate about careers in fluid power gives you other opportunities to “pass it forward” and realize great personal rewards.
We are here to help you with these initiatives. The IFPS board meetings are held twice a year, and during these meetings, the Membership and Chapters committee, along with our other committees, work with ideas to help improve the membership experience, create useful tools, recognize our members, and expand our presence. Some of our recent accomplishments include the following creations:
- A discounted membership rate for active military – reduced annual and two-year membership renewal fees. It’s our way of saying “thank you” to those who serve.
- Individual membership brochure – a handy overview of IFPS and membership form that explains what we do. This is a great tool to have. (Please contact IFPS staff and ask for some.)
- Fluid Power Professionals Day – a day to thank you for all you do as a fluid power professional. Lots of details in the Journal or at www.ifps.org.
- Chapter start-up guide – a step-by-step instruction manual for community-service-minded individuals to start up an IFPS chapter. Chapters have additional financial benefits and serve as an outreach to the community through schools, other service organizations, and local industry.
- Chapter operations manual – an organizational aid and guide to running your chapter.
We have more plans for the future, but it is you—the individual IFPS member—who can really make a positive difference in the lives of others.
IFPS membership…what do you make of it?
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 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.”