NFPA Deepens Its Focus on Growing the Fluid Power Workforce
by Jeff Stuart
President, Hydra-Power Systems
NFPA Chairman of the Board
In June of this year, the NFPA Board of Directors held its annual strategic retreat where we talked about many of the challenges faced by the fluid power industry and what NFPA is doing and should do to help our members address them. It was an exciting and productive meeting for me knowing that, as the new Chairman of the Board, it would be my responsibility to shepherd the outcomes determined by the Board.
The meeting was also interesting for me as the new Chairman and the first distributor member to hold that position. It is another significant step on broadening the supply chain representation in our organization and fulfilling another part of the vision the Board first laid out in 2005 when they put the “NFPA New Directions initiative” into motion. I’m honored to serve in this role and look forward to the year ahead.
At the June meeting, the Board spent some time reviewing the latest information from our membership satisfaction survey and engaged in much discussion about the changing climate of our industry. It became clear through this analysis that, although connecting the fluid power community, increasing member use of market data and intelligence, and promoting innovative uses of our technology would remain important priorities, growing the fluid power workforce stood out as the central challenge for our industry and our association.
Taking into consideration the significant program successes we’ve seen over the past year (see sidebar), the Board next worked on crafting a set of clear, high-level objectives—what we’re coming to refer to as “ends” statements, because they describe the major ends or outcomes we wish to achieve. Of the six objectives we identified, fully half of them deal exclusively with the workforce issue:
- NFPA provides an effective forum for fluid power suppliers, manufacturers and distributors to advance their collective interests.
- NFPA provides its members with timely and accurate industry statistics that support improved decision-making.
- NFPA fosters awareness and involvement of middle and high school students, helping them understand fluid power’s potential as a technology and choose fluid power as a career path.
- NFPA helps increase the number of technically trained people capable of integrating and applying fluid power, and connects them to careers in the fluid power industry.
- NFPA supports universities in the development of fundamental fluid power knowledge and connects our industry to an increasing number of scientific and engineering leaders in our field.
- NFPA helps machine and equipment builders understand innovative uses and unique strengths of fluid power and increase its use in their products.
These statements represent the current strategic vision of the association. They describe how we intend to fulfill our mission to strengthen the fluid power industry.
We’re now in the process of determining an action plan to drive this agenda forward. Eric Lanke, NFPA’s CEO, and his staff are our key partners in this regard, as they work collaboratively to adapt, invent and lead the programs that will be needed to see success in each of these areas. We’ll provide additional updates as this plan comes together and moves forward over this fiscal year.
I look forward to a very active year as your Chairman. Please feel free to contact me through the NFPA office if you have any questions. I would strongly encourage your personal involvement in any or all areas of strategy that interest you.
Success Highlights from the 2014-15 NFPA Strategy Agenda
Each year, the NFPA Board of Directors, with the support of its CEO and his staff, sets a strategy agenda that includes specific objectives and program goals intended to advance key areas of strategic priority. Success highlights from the fiscal year just completed include:
Effective Forum: NFPA provides an effective forum for fluid power suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and machine/equipment builders to advance their collective interests.
- Membership grew by 10 manufacturer, 1 distributor and 6 supplier members.
- Average participation in NFPA activities grew in each membership category and the number of non-engaged manufacturers and distributors was reduced.
- The percentage of member companies participating in NFPA leadership activities increased, from 24% to 28%.
- Baselines were established to begin measuring member use of online resources and user participation in targeted activities.
- Continued the new “ambassador” recruitment program, resulting in the addition of a targeted distribution company to our membership.
- Launched a new Membership Committee and use as a sounding board for membership and recruitment strategies.
- Increased the diversity and relevance of information being communicated to NFPA members through electronic and printed communications.
- Set and achieved attendance diversity goals for the 2015 Annual Conference, helping to ensure an appropriate mix of manufacturers, distributors and suppliers.
- Launched a new “NFPA Events” website to better connect members to information about our conferences and events.
- Launched a new online forum for participants in our standards community, allowing for easier document sharing, voting and collaboration.
Industry Statistics: Members receive timely and accurate industry statistics that support improved decision-making.
- Market information programs were reviewed for relevant statistics, and improvement objectives were set, including easing reporting requirements in our Customer Market Survey, launching a new State of the Fluid Power Industry survey for distributors, and redesigning our Electronic Statistical Toolkit for the web environment.
- Baselines and goals were set to increase member participation in our participation-based market information programs, and to increase attendance at the Industry and Economic Outlook Conference and Economic Update Webinars.
- A baseline was established to begin measuring member use of the Stats Dashboard.
- Launched the new State of the Fluid Power Industry survey for distributors.
- Completed two new Customer Technology Trend reports, one on pneumatics in packaging machinery, the second on hydraulics in construction equipment, and presented both at the 2014 Industry and Economic Outlook Conference.
Increased Use: Machine/equipment builders understand the unique strengths of fluid power and readily incorporate it into their products for maximum benefit.
- Baselines and goals were set to increase the sales of standards that ease the use of fluid power to machine/equipment builders.
- A portfolio of marketing programs by which messages about the unique strengths of fluid power could be delivered to machine/equipment builders was defined, and work began on defining baselines and goals for these programs.
- Completed a benchmarking study of the electrical industry to understand how they used standardization to increase their innovation capacity and discussed its applicability to the fluid power industry with representatives from the U.S. TAG to ISO TC 131.
- Hosted a successful IFPE Fluid Power Zone at the MDA North America and IMTS trade shows, documenting more than 240 machine/equipment builders receiving positive messages about fluid power in the lead retrieval data of Zone exhibitors.
- Organized a successful “Future of Pneumatics” booth at PACK EXPO East, documenting more than 130 meaningful interactions with show attendees about pneumatic innovations.
Knowledge Development: Government agencies and universities engage with NFPA to develop fundamental knowledge of fluid power and educate the next generation of scientific and engineering leaders in the field.
- Government funding for fluid power research and education continued through the ERC program, and new strategies for the acquisition of new funding were put in place.
- Industry donations to the NFPA Foundation totaled $817,000, an increase of 276% over the previous campaign year.
- NFPA Foundation funds were used to support $927,000 in fluid power research and education activities, and increase of 526% over the previous year.
- A baseline was established to begin measuring the number of universities teaching fluid power and the number of university students taking fluid power classes.
- Confirmed a new collaborative staff team structure with the CCEFP to allow for better alignment of skill sets, strategies and activities across both organizations.
- Refreshed the existing Technology Roadmap for the Fluid Power Industry with more than 50 members of the new NFPA Roadmap Committee.
- Secured more than $400K in funding from the NIST’s AMTech Program for a new roadmapping project on how new manufacturing technologies can improve the manufacture of fluid power products and how those improved fluid power products can increase the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing.
- Produced the second annual report on the U.S. Fluid Power industry, highlighting the economic impact of the industry, the energy profile of the technology, and future innovation trends.
- Awarded eight teaching grants to universities and 2-year schools, increasing the amount of fluid power taught on those campuses.
- Worked with the CCEFP to guide more than 20 pre-competitive research projects at seven U.S. universities, connecting those schools, their professors and students to the fluid power industry.
Young People: Young people understand fluid power’s potential as a technology and as a career path.
- Content to connect young people to information on how fluid power works and its impact on the quality of life was identified for inclusion in a new web property targeting this audience and its influencers.
- The total number of students participating in Fluid Power Challenge events increased 46% (from 2,894 to 4,178) and the total number of students participating in Fluid Power Challenge-related classroom activities increased 91% (from 2,756 to 5,263).
- A baseline was established to begin measuring the number of high school seniors enrolling in 2- and 4-year colleges that include fluid power.
- Expanded the number of Fluid Power Challenge events from 5 to 15, and launched a new “Fluid Power Challenge Champions” club in the NFPA Foundation to recognize NFPA members that organize and host their own Challenges.
- Launched a new Student Career Connections program, reaching out to NFPA members to help them engage with middle and high school students in their areas.
Technical Careers: Technically-trained individuals have successful pathways to long-term careers in the fluid power industry.
- The number of fluid power certification tests taken and fluid power certifications awarded are on track to increase by 10% this year.
- A baseline was established to begin measuring the number of 2-year schools teaching fluid power and the number of 2-year students taking fluid power classes.
- Added a list of resources to the NFPA website for members seeking access to skilled trade candidates for their workforces.
- Awarded four laboratory grants to 2-year schools, increasing the amount of fluid power taught on their campuses.
- Helped connect members to 2- and 4-year fluid power teaching labs in their area to lend financial and product support.
Workforce Connections: NFPA connects its members to the talent they need to grow their businesses and advance fluid power technology.
- A baseline was established to begin measuring industry participation in workforce connection programs.
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