I’ve always maintained that the four-year college degree — while useful in teaching young people to be adults — can be a waste. As a journalist, I learned most of what I needed to know in two courses and several internships. That’s why I’m a big proponent of hands-on training — be it co-op programs, internships, or apprenticeships.
Over the last few months, I’ve had opportunities to chat with people that are pushing the envelope when it comes to giving young people better exposure to real-life applications and hands-on experience in their future careers.
A few years ago, Festo Didactic brought its apprenticeship model to the U.S. Thomas Lichtenberger, CEO, said it graduated its second class of students from its Mason, Ohio program, where students worked at Festo and other local manufacturers while attending school to earn an Associate’s degree in mechatronics. The organization has also recently worked with The Space Coast Consortium Apprenticeship Program. Finally, Festo Didactic has provided its Cyber-Physical Lab to Owensboro Community and Technical College, to give students a real-world glimpse into advanced manufacturing and Industry 4.0 careers.
The good news continues with the NFPA adding its second Fast Track/FAMTEN Hub school at Triton College in Illinois. This workforce development pathway partners local technical colleges with industry partners and high school teachers to create awareness and interest in fluid power and train students along a path that leads to careers in fluid power at NFPA member companies.
And, along these same notes, I’ve had ample opportunity to explore the Parker Hannifin Motion Control Laboratory for Fluid Power Systems at Cleveland State University with Bogdan Kozul, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Kozul designed and custom-built the trainers and workstations with Parker’s help to give students hands-on skills. I was also delighted to learn that a new acquaintance has been selected as the automation/fluid power advisory partner for the Mechanical Engineering Technology Program at Chattanooga State Community College. Here, Southern Fluid Power will supply automation/fluid power trainers equipped with the latest technologies including Industry 4.0 capabilities. Curriculum will be focused on Parker-brand trainers and textbooks.
Finally, I’ve also had a chance to speak with several women in fluid power about their thoughts on the industry. Key to these discussions has been how getting younger people involved in fluid power is essential to the industry’s growth. And all these women echoed my sentiments — it’s those hands-on experiences early in school and in their careers that help students fall in love with engineering, technology and hopefully, fluid power.
This is all amazing news and I’m excited to see the changes these new developments bring to the industry and to future fluid power engineers. Bring on 2020!