Fluid Power Journal

NFPA Guides Students to Fluid Power Careers

By Lynn Beyer, Vice President of Workforce Development Programs, National Fluid Power Association

In biennial surveys, National Fluid Power Association members consistently rank workforce development as the most challenging issue their companies face. One reason is that  not enough technical colleges and universities are teaching fluid power. So how can we get more students interested in fluid power careers? It is something we continually work on at NFPA.

NFPA identified growth of the workforce as one of its primary strategic priorities. It is important to our mission of strengthening the industry. NFPA needs to work to increase the number of educated technicians and engineers embarking on careers in fluid power and connect them to industry members.

We have made our way down many different avenues by supporting scholarships, grants, and competitions, among other efforts. And while we’ve often raised student interest, we were not always able to bring these programs together and work alongside each other to lead students into fluid power careers.

We realized we needed to form complete pathways, not just a resource here or there along the way. That approach left us no place to lead students if they were interested in the next step.

Here are some of the programs we’ve created to help accomplish these goals and begin to answer this burning question of how to raise interest in fluid power among students at all educational levels.

Fast Track to Fluid Power is a workforce development pathway that brings companies and technical colleges together with middle and high school teachers and students. This network creates awareness and interest in fluid power and leads students along a path to careers in the industry. There are four main participants in this program:

  • A technical or community college with a validated fluid power and mechatronics degree program. NFPA provides financial support to the school to help add fluid power learning outcomes.
  • A ring of local high schools that NFPA equips with hands-on fluid power training equipment as well as train-the-trainer classes for high school teachers.
  • A community-wide Fluid Power Action Challenge event for middle school students in which they learn about and have fun with fluid power.
  • A network of industry partners with facilities near the community. Fast Track is an opportunity for NFPA members to make a direct connection to their future workforce.

The University Power Partner Program is another pathway we created to connect our members with universities that teach fluid power. To be considered as a Power Partner, a university must:

  • participate in the Speaker’s Bureau program,
  • participate in the Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge,
  • start a fluid power club,
  • host a student-industry connection event, and
  • teach the nine core fluid power competencies.

Here is a description of these programs and resources NFPA has created to provide help.

  • Speaker’s Bureau: NFPA members speak about fluid power careers at local universities. NFPA provides a draft presentation, information on types of jobs, salaries, job outlooks, and the degrees needed for each job. NFPA also works with the university and the NFPA member to find a time that works for both.
  • Vehicle Challenge: A unique engineering design competition embedded in the capstone design course at participating universities. It strives to promote original thinking in a competitive setting by combining human-powered vehicles and fluid power technology. The program also connects university students to NFPA industry members through mentorship and judging.
  • Fluid power clubs: University students in NFPA-sponsored clubs work on fluid power projects and connect with NFPA industry members for technical support and career mentorship.
  • Nine core competencies: NFPA’s university education committee identified nine core competencies with which mechanical engineering students should graduate and that embody the skills industry members look for in job candidates.
  • Fluid power curricula: Academic colleagues use NFPA resources to teach the nine core competencies in university engineering programs.
  • University fluid power grants: NFPA awards grants to support fluid power curricula.

While these programs are new and may take a few years to gain traction, we have already  seen growth in hiring as a result of connections between students and our members in the fluid power industry.

With the goal of providing future fluid power professionals for the 21st century, NFPA continues working with students at all levels.

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