Ensuring an engaged, educated fluid power workforce
Since the pandemic started, there has been many a cry about the skilled worker shortage in industrial manufacturing and engineering. To be fair, as the Baby Boomer generation has come closer and closer to retirement in full, there has already been great concern over who will take over many jobs in fluid power — diversity in age, race, and gender is not really our forte.
What the pandemic has done, however, is made more people aware of this problem. Skilled worker shortage is at the forefront of government and media attention. Just last month, Diane Benck, member of the board of directors for The Association of Equipment Distributors and general manager and co-owner of West Side Tractor Sales, opined to a congressional subcommittee that the equipment industry’s greatest challenge is the lack of skilled workers. She cited an AED Foundation study that indicated AED members forgo more than $2.4 billion in revenue due to the lack of skilled workers.
The National Fluid Power Association is yet another industry group that has seen this problem growing for years. It has been working to combat it with program developments that encourage four-year college and technical school programs to include fluid power training — and working to build awareness and interest in careers in fluid power to schoolchildren.
The NFPA announced earlier this year that is establishing its third Fast Track to Fluid Power hub school at Macomb Community College in Warren, Mich. this spring. The association continues to work to facilitate connections between local technical colleges, industry partners, and high school teachers to strengthen fluid power education and career development (read more about this plan on page 15).
With support from NFPA, Macomb will create a dedicated fluid power certificate. Macomb will also work with NFPA to present fluid power career pathways to secondary students through school counselors and teachers. Students will be encouraged to attend outreach events with their parents where they will participate in hands on activities. They will be engaged in opportunities that will provide them the opportunity to earn fluid power certifications through the International Fluid Power Society.
NFPA has already established Fast Track Hub programs at Waukesha Country Technical College in Wisconsin and Triton College in Illinois.
The organization also partners with four-year colleges to encourage more fluid power exposure during higher education and provides hands-in opportunities, scholarships, mentorship, and more.
Programs like these are critical to our industry’s future. And it is especially imperative while the whole world is listening that we embrace these opportunities to bring a new generation of fluid power engineers, technicians, designers, and more into the fold.
That is one of the main reasons we have always partnered with technical colleges and universities, as well as industry associations, to bring our Fluid Power Technology Conference to these fluid power hubs. In the past, we’ve worked with MSOE and Cleveland State University and this year, we’ll feature panel discussions about workforce development and partner with University of Minnesota and Macomb Community College.
We encourage our readers to get involved with these many opportunities. Sign up to be a mentor or a judge in the NFPA Vehicle Challenge or host a NFPA Action Challenge for middle-school students. And join us in Minnesota or Detroit this year, and learn what the NFPA, NAHAD, engineering colleges, and others are doing to ensure an engaged, educated fluid power workforce.
Mary C. Gannon • Editor-in -Chief
On Twitter @FPW_marygannon
Filed Under: Digital Issues