Engineers and others working in fluid power understand the importance of connecting with their peers. This is especially true for those younger individuals just entering the field.
Fluid power is a technology that many (myself included) admit they “just fell into.” Very few actually enter it intentionally (apart from those involved in family businesses, I am sure). How can we engage those individuals and make sure they end up loving fluid power as much as we do?
Mentoring, that’s how. Last year at our Fluid Power Technology Conference, our panel of women in fluid power all agreed on one thing — that mentoring is crucial to the industry’s future, as we work to not only get more women designing fluid power technologies and systems, but young people in general.
One organization that’s working towards this is the FPDA, said Bill Haley, FPDA Board of Directors Member from Force America, in a recent letter to members.
“Through its careful and deliberate pairing of aspiring future leaders (mentees) with accomplished managers and executives from other non-competing FPDA member companies (mentors), the FPDA’s mentorship program has fostered confidential, mutually-consultative relationships between transitioning generations of fluid power leadership,” Haley said. “That’s an impressive sentence, I know, but it’s as important as it sounds.”
The resounding complaint nationwide is that workforce development is a major challenge. This is no different at FPDA member companies, said Haley. Approximately 60% of FPDA member companies have fewer than 50 employees. These smaller companies may struggle to provide their staff training and guidance in the industry, leaving young fluid power professionals few opportunities to network with industry peers, and even fewer to engage with leadership of other fluid power distributors.
Haley said that mentees currently in the FPDA program have overwhelmingly agreed mentorship has been invaluable in their career development. Some mentees likened working with their mentor to having a personal coach or an unbiased advisor. “The fact that program mentors can offer different perspectives on fluid power distribution industry topics like ecommerce, HR issues, freight/logistics or CRM software has been especially useful to some,” Haley said. “Mentees say they trust their mentors and enjoy being able to bounce ideas — even the bad ones — off their mentor without doing damage to their reputation with their direct supervisor.”
But participation is key, said Haley. FPDA plans to expand its free mentorship program in 2019 and is encouraging its Young Executives and senior-level managers of member companies to get involved. FPDA members can find more information at fpda.org.
And the rest of us? Perhaps you need to begin mentorship programs at your own companies. Reach out to organizations where you belong and see how you can start a program there or get involved in one they may already have. Our industry’s future depends on it.