Invest in the Future of Fluid Power

NFPA members consistently rank workforce development as the most challenging issue their companies face. This is likely because not enough technical colleges and universities are teaching fluid power to their students.

As a result, NFPA has identified growing the fluid power workforce as one of its primary strategic priorities. It is central to its mission of strengthening the fluid power industry. NFPA seeks to increase the number of educated technicians and engineers embarking on careers in fluid power.

The NFPA Education and Technology Foundation is a tax-exempt, charitable organization, affiliated with NFPA, that is dedicated to meeting this workforce development need. Through the generous support of our donors, programs like the ones covered in this section of the report are helping to change the talent pool available to our industry. More young people are aware of the fluid power industry. More 2-year technical college and 4-year university graduates have specific training in fluid power. More universities have research facilities and education programs focused on fluid power. And more partnerships between these schools and our industry are increasing access to highly talented candidates.

Learn more about these efforts and donate to help support them at

Supporting Training at Multiple Grade Levels

As of early December 2020, $7,424.02 has been awarded in the form of Action Challenge Grants (worth up to $500) to middle schools throughout the country. Nineteen middle schools, including several new schools who received the grant for the first time this year, received funds that will allow them to participate in Fluid Power Challenges or purchase buildable kits and materials that will allow students to participate in hands-on fluid power education either in school or remotely. Schools are eligible to apply on a yearly basis, and over 150 unique schools have been awarded the grant since its inception over 10 years ago.

NFPA Fast Track logoWork related to the NFPA Fast Track to Fluid Power has also continued. Right now, we have two Fast Track communities. One is headquartered at Waukesha County Technical College in Wisconsin and the other is Triton College in Illinois. Local NFPA members inspire students to make their way down the Fast Track fluid power path into an exciting career. Work has started on launching the third Fast Track pathway in Iowa.

The program is a workforce development pathway that partners local technical colleges, industry professionals and middle/high school teachers and students, the Fast Track network creates awareness and interest in fluid power and provides training that leads to careers in fluid power at NFPA member companies. The pathway covers multiple education levels in the community:

  • A community-wide Fluid Power Action Challenge event is the first step in the pathway. The Action Challenge serves as an introduction to fluid power through a competition that challenges middle school students to solve an engineering problem using fluid power.
  • The second step in the pathway includes equipping local high school classrooms with fluid power training equipment.
  • Third is the technical school with a validated fluid power curriculum.

Extremely important to all steps in the pathway is the local network of industry partners connecting with teachers and students. Fast Track would not be successful without industry mentors getting students interested, helping them learn the basics, and eventually recruiting them when they graduate. Contact Lynn Beyer at to learn more.

Connecting Universities with Industry

The NFPA Speaker’s Bureau program is designed to facilitate connections between NFPA members and tech schools or universities by presenting to students on a variety of topics. Topics generally include an overview of the company including its culture and examples of real world applications, internship or co-op programs, what’s attractive about working in the fluid power industry and advice for students. Typically the presentations would be held in person, but with COVID-19 restrictions they have all gone virtual making it easier than ever before to connect with students.

Here are the virtual presentations that took place this fall semester:

School Company
FPVC Presentations Danfoss
FPVC Presentations Norgren
FPVC Presentations Iowa Fluid Power
Milwaukee School of Engineering SMC Corporation of America
Milwaukee School of Engineering Husco
Ohio University Parker Hannifin
Purdue University Northwest Daman Products Company
University of Cincinnati Eaton
West Virginia University Institute of Technology GPM Controls

NFPA’s Fluid Power Club Program has also grown this year. The program is designed to help university students learn about fluid power while they work on educational and technical projects as well as get connected to NFPA members to learn about career opportunities in fluid power.

So far, 13 clubs at universities across the country participate:

  1. Cleveland State University
  2. Iowa State University
  3. Milwaukee School of Engineering
  4. Murray State University
  5. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
  6. Northern Illinois University
  7. Ohio University
  8. Purdue University
  9. Purdue University Northwest
  10. University of Alabama at Birmingham
  11. University of Cincinnati
  12. West Virginia University Tech
  13. Western Michigan University

The 5th annual NFPA Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge launched in September for the 2020/21 school year. Designed to increase the number of university students learning about and getting hands-on experience with fluid power, this competition tasks teams with redesigning a traditional bicycle using hydraulics as the mode of power transmission.

Two final competition events will be held this cycle ensuring that more students and universities can participate, and more NFPA Foundation donors can connect with these students. The first will be hosted by Norgren in Littleton, Colorado on April 7-9 and the other will take place the following week, hosted by Danfoss Power Solutions in Ames, Iowa on April 14-16, 2021. Seventeen teams are set to participate:

  1. Cal Poly State University
  2. Cleveland State University
  3. Iowa State University
  4. Kennesaw State University
  5. Michigan Technological University
  6. Milwaukee School of Engineering
  7. Murray State University
  8. Northern Illinois University
  9. Purdue University
  10. Purdue University Northwest
  11. South Dakota State University
  12. University of Akron
  13. University of Cincinnati
  14. University of Louisiana at Lafayette
  15. University of Utah
  16. West Virginia University Institute of Technology
  17. Western Michigan University

Power Partner logoThe NFPA University Power Partner Program is a recognition program designed to showcase a university that actively participates in all NFPA fluid power educational programs. The major objective for this program is to increase the amount of fluid power being taught in university agricultural, mechanical engineering and engineering technology degree programs and enhance student-to-industry connection.

To be considered as a Power Partner, the university must:

  • Participate in the Speaker’s Bureau Program by inviting one of the industry partners in our speaker’s bureau to speak on fluid power careers or technology on their campus
  • Participate in the Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge, a unique engineering design competition that combines two technology platforms that are not normally associated with one another —human-powered vehicles and fluid power
  • Have an undergraduate Fluid Power Club on their campus that meets regularly and connects students to fluid power resources and local members
  • Host a student/industry connection event on their campus to introduce fluid power-educated students to companies in the NFPA membership
  • Teach the nine core fluid power competencies that our industry members have identified as most important for entry-level engineers in the fluid power industry

When a university is designated as a Power Partner, we continually promote their programs to NFPA members and help support connection events.

As of today, there is only one university that has done all five of these things in the same year – and that is Purdue University. Their industry connection event was held virtually in September 2020. Stay tuned for program updates and for the next Power Partner University to be announced.

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