By Eric Lanke
As our Board Chair Ray Chambers recently communicated, the NFPA Board of Directors met virtually in late June 2020 for its annual strategic retreat. Among other topics of focus, the Board reviewed the program successes NFPA achieved in its 2019-20 fiscal year. In this post, I would like to share with our membership ways for them to connect to those successful programs, especially those associated with NFPA’s fourth major objective: Helping to increase the number of technical college and university students educated in fluid power and connecting them to careers in the fluid power industry.
In Ray’s previous post, he summarized our success in this area like this:
“Educated Workforce is what we call our objective of increasing the number of fluid power-educated students and connecting them to careers in the our industry. Both of our key workforce development programs saw significant growth in the past year. We now have two Fast Track Hubs up and running, one in Wisconsin and the second in Illinois, each promoting fluid power to middle school students, providing high school students with real fluid power education, and directing them into two-year degree programs at designated technical schools. Our members are beginning to hire these students. We also named our first Power Partner University, recognizing its deep commitment to fluid power education on its campus, launched nearly a dozen undergraduate fluid power clubs around the country, and oversaw a record-breaking Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge. Despite the need to hold its final competition event virtually, more students than ever participated, and more NFPA members than ever connected with them by serving as judges and mentors.”
There are a lot of ways for members to engage in these successful programs.
Fast Track to Fluid Power
Fast Track is a workforce development pathway that connects local technical colleges with industry partners and high school and middle school teachers. The network creates awareness and interest in fluid power and continues to direct students along a path that leads to careers in our industry. Four key programs are nested together in this structure:
- The Fluid Power Action Challenge first engages thousands of middle school students in learning about and having fun with fluid power. It raises awareness among students, educators, and parents. There are lots of opportunities to get engaged in one of the Action Challenges that take place within our Fast Track structure – or to start an Action Challenge in your own community.Go to https://nfpahub.com/fpc/action-challenge/ for more information.
- Then, Fast Track High Schools are each equipped with fluid power lab equipment and curriculum. They teach real-world fluid power and generate interest in fluid power careers. Industry partners visit the schools frequently to provide mentorship and career encouragement.
- Then, a variety of Fluid Power Scholarships are offered to graduating high school students in order to pursue fluid power degrees or certificates at designated technical colleges. Industry partners serve on the scholarship review committee that makes funding decisions. One of our scholarship programs in the Fluid Power Robotics Challenge, which just announced its fourth recipient.Go to https://nfpahub.com/fpc/robotics-challenge/ for more information.
- And finally, Fast Track Technical Colleges are schools with a 2-year degree program validated to teach core fluid power competencies. Industry partners provide on-going curriculum guidance and student internship opportunities.
That nested body of programs is what we call a Fast Track Hub. Now there are two Fast Track Hubs up and running. One is centered on Waukesha County Technical College in southeastern Wisconsin and the second is centered on Triton College in northeastern Illinois. Based on a successful fundraising program last year, we are now working on building our third Fast Track Hub in Iowa, and plan to launch more Hubs as funds become available.
To get engaged in any of our existing Hubs or to help determine where future ones will be built, contact Lynn Beyer at email@example.com.
Power Partner Universities
Power Partner Universities are 4-year schools that excel at teaching and connecting their students to fluid power instruction and career opportunities. In order to qualify, a university must consistently conduct four major activities:
- They must teach the Fluid Power Competencies identified as most important for entry-level engineers by the fluid power industry. A good way to review these competencies is to check out our Fluid Power Curriculum Tree where many of the teaching resources the NFPA Foundation has helped build are available for free download to educators that want to teach more fluid power in their classrooms.
- They must have an undergraduate Fluid Power Club on their campus that meets regularly and connects students to fluid power resources. In our first program year, we were able to launch nine of these clubs at universities around the country, with most of them looking for industry members to come present to them on topics of importance to the fluid power industry. NFPA members can access these opportunities through our Speakers Bureau program.
- They must have a team participate in our Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge, a design/build competition that challenges students to build a human-powered, fluid power vehicle. Our goal is to sign-up 18 universities in the 2021 Vehicle Challenge, which we hope to host in-person in April at two different locations. This is an exceptional opportunity for NFPA members to meet and engage with the future engineering workforce by serving as industry mentors/judges to the different teams.For more info, go to https://nfpahub.com/fpc/vehicle-challenge/.
- And they must host an Industry Connection Event on their campus to introduce fluid power-educated students to companies in the fluid power industry. The first such event happened virtually with Purdue University on September 11, 2020.
When it comes to sourcing candidates for engineering positions needed in our industry, NFPA members are increasingly engaging in these activities at our Power Partner Universities.
The Pascal Society is the giving society in the NFPA Foundation that best facilitates these connections between students and member companies. Any company that donates an amount equal to at least 50% of their NFPA dues is part of the Pascal Society and is asked to serve on a special Pascal Society Council, where they are directly plugged into the programs described above. These are the companies that are taking full advantage of the programs and improving their hiring and recruitment success. A current list of Pascal Society donors can be found at https://www.nfpa.com/home/Pascal-Society/Donors.htm.
If you’d like to donate and get more engaged, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All of these activities mean that NFPA is making good on its objective of helping to increase the number of technical college and university students educated in fluid power and connecting them to careers in the fluid power industry. If you would like your company to become more engaged with NFPA, please reach out to me at email@example.com or (414) 778-3351.