Certification adds a third dimension to your portfolio; education and experience are the other two.
In baseball, we look for a player with the complete package—one who can throw, bat, catch, run, and be smart enough to make the many quick decisions that inevitably impact the outcome of a game. Certification in our industry mimics this complete package. It lets people know that you have, in addition to experience and education, specialization in fluid power and that you have taken the time to document your expertise. It lets the world know you are a critical member of the “team.”
Fluid power has had many innovations since the 1980s. Probably the most significant is proportional controls. Fast forward 30 years and all of a sudden we are dealing with programmable logic controllers, motion controllers, analog and digital drivers, load cells, linear variable displacement transducers (LVDT), proportional integral derivative (PID) controllers—the list goes on and on. These innovative technologies require in-depth knowledge of electronics in addition to basic hydraulics.
Fluid power isn’t just for log splitting anymore. In addition to electronics, advances in proportional valve technology and servo valve technology have allowed fluid power to reach into applications that used to be reserved for the electromechanical industry. Again, applying these valves requires knowledge of frequency response technology and closed-loop controls. Certification is a key way of keeping up with this technology and letting your industry know that you have the fundamental knowledge necessary to apply it.
When I first heard of fluid power certification in the early 90s, I was very interested. I saw it as a way to achieve a higher level of accomplishment. Monetary gain was not the main motive. For me, it was more about pride and bragging rights. Since then, I have had many discussions with colleagues about the benefits of being certified. It’s funny how almost everybody who isn’t certified doesn’t feel the need to certify, whereas those who are certified are always looking for new certifications to add to their portfolios and other ways of growing professionally.
Recently, a group of young engineers that I work with decided to take the certification test. They were also joined by a few senior engineers motivated by the younger group. I met with them several times when they were preparing for the test. I reminded them that taking the test is not like running a race—it’s more like achieving a goal. So, if you don’t pass the first time, there’s no shame in going back and taking the test again and again. And again, until you pass. Afterward, while they all agreed that taking the test was no walk in the park, most of them passed the test. The one thing that impressed me the most was that one of the fellows who didn’t pass the test went ahead and re-took the test almost immediately. And he passed it. I don’t know who was more proud.
At the end of the day, it’s really up to us—on an individual level—to take the next step. If you haven’t gotten your certification, look into it. Get started by preparing to take the test. Don’t assume that just because you’ve been in fluid power for years you’re going to breeze through the test. It takes hard work and substantial preparation. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and the rewards of getting certified are real. You probably won’t become the next CEO of your company, but the CEO will surely look at you differently. So, too, will your customers and colleagues see you in a different professional light.
For those of you who have been certified, I urge you to promote the certification process as a positive experience for both the employer and the employee—not as a competitive challenge. This will simply drive people away.
As the industry continues to move forward in areas like energy recovery, energy-efficient systems, alternative energy, smart components, etc., the certification process will become increasingly beneficial and integral to our professional growth. With all of these fast-paced developments, I ask: Can you really afford not to be certified?
About the Author: Bert Martinez, CFPE, CMfgE, has 44 years of experience in hydraulic cartridge valves, integrated circuits, and electrohydraulics. He currently works in marketing/engineering for Sun Hydraulics.
The term “outreach” isn’t typically associated with our professional lives. When I think of outreach, I think of church or a volunteer organization. There are plenty of opportunities and organizations to choose from; just throw a stone in any direction and you’ll hit a target.
As a member of IFPS’s Chapter 49 & 50 in my seventh year, I’m proud to have been a part of outreach in a way I never imagined as a fluid power professional. If your chapter is looking for ways to benefit your local community, you’re in luck, as our chapter has done this for years. This is how it started.
If you’ve ever been to a local chapter meeting, chances are you’ve met a fluid power vendor (or are one) and that vendor’s (or your – eek!) competitor. That can be a tricky scenario to navigate for everyone involved.
Our solution to that issue came in the form of a high school student. Our chapter treasurer, Ryan Remmers, had a son who was involved in FIRST, a robotics competition. The goal at the high school level is to build a robot within certain specifications and pilot it remotely, coordinating tasks with other teams while trying to outscore opponents. I highly recommend checking out www.usfirst.org for ways to volunteer anywhere in the world.
The budget for a team’s competition season can be as much as $20,000 or more. Teams fundraise with activities such as car washes and bake sales. As we were discussing upcoming chapter meeting topics, Ryan suggested the chapter donate funds to local FIRST teams that were in need.
This was terrific, as it instantly hit several points for a chapter’s existence:
- Users of fluid power + competitors + small meeting room = potential hornet’s nest!
- Outreach provides a reason for a chapter to exist and a task that everyone, regardless of professional position, can focus on and give to equally.
- Big key: With outreach, you can influence your community within your profession and pass along skills to kids. How cool is that?
We invited three FIRST teams to our November 2007 meeting and asked them to make a presentation. Each team told us about “Gracious Professionalism” (see the website for more information), details of last year’s robot, different jobs and their requirements (programmers, pilots, mechanical designers), and all about team spirit. It was a blast to see the enthusiasm about robotics and in our case, fluid power. Teams are usually allowed an air compressor and a reason to use an actuator, an example being shooting a basketball at a hoop.
We ended up giving away more than $3,000 that night! After the teams left our meeting, we were all in shock as to how much fun this event was. We’ve done this every year since and have donated more than $18,000 total.
Please contact me with any questions. Everyone associated with our chapter would tell you that outreach is worth your time. Imagine finding an opportunity to help your community via your profession…it’s right in front of you.
By Scott Gower, CFPS, IFPS Chapter 49 & 50 – Treasurer, Past President (firstname.lastname@example.org)
As president of the International Fluid Power Society this year, I have had the pleasure of attending a large number of trade shows and national meetings, completed many local customer calls, and heard the same dialogue being repeated: “We need skilled people.” I don’t care if it’s at the salesman level, engineering disciplines, trades, whatever. It’s the same mantra.
Why is that? Well, I hear many reasons for this, but one does seem to be in the majority. Colleges and universities are not producing qualified candidates with exposure to fluid power. I can attest to the fact that I have talked to many good, young engineers just leaving school and they admit there are little or no fluid power classes, much less fully focused degree programs in this area.
Wow! Nature seems to have run amuck here. We are taught early and often that nature always tries to fill a vacuum. Well, if that and the laws of supply and demand are truly correct, we should be flooded with young people running to our companies and fighting to get into our profession. Are the money and benefits not right? Is the work too hard and dirty? I think not. Check out the May/June issue of Fluid Power Journal and read the results of our recent salary survey. We take pretty good care of our people, from what I’ve read there. (By the way, isn’t the Journal looking great these days? Super congrats to the staff at IDP!)
The problem, I believe, is exposure.
These young people live in a world where fluid power is everywhere. The applications for it are growing—not shrinking—but nobody seems to be pointing that out. We don’t personally have to tell the world of this fact. All we have to do, individually, is talk it up to our own sphere of influence.
This is my call to action for us all. Make an appointment with your local high school or middle school guidance office. Volunteer to give a talk at a career day function or similar. Let them know our chosen field of work is vibrant and strong, and that we need new recruits.
The Society is well on its way of completing our Boy Scout Merit Badge project and feel this will be an awesome way to educate young folks about fluid power.
Check out the May/June issue of the Journal and read the article about Alfred State College. These students are getting certified and securing jobs. Has a nice ring to it in today’s job market, doesn’t it?
Again, I challenge you, get in the game. We need you! Who is a better advocate for this great career area? Those of us already in it! Spread the word…Fluid Power Rocks!
By Mark Perry, CFPHS, Fitzsimmons Hydraulics, 2013 IFPS President and Chairperson