NFPA Success Highlights: Education Roadmap

Eric Lanke NFPA CEOl


by Eric Lanke

[dropcap]A[/dropcap] little while ago, NFPA Board Chair Bill Gorski wrote about the work he and the Board are doing to define a new strategy agenda for the association—one that better identifies specific outcomes NFPA will seek to achieve when tackling the challenges facing the fluid power industry. As part of that article, Bill also discussed the progress NFPA has made over this past year, and included a list of twenty or more bullet points that described specific success highlights in our three areas of strategic priority—workforce, technology and inclusiveness. I thought NFPA members might be interested in more of the details behind each one of those highlights, so I decided to start this series of posts. First up, the Education Roadmap.

What did we want to achieve?

The specific objective from our strategic plan reads: “Define a regional strategy for the development of fluid power educational resources, and use to guide fundraising and program placement.” You see, for a while now NFPA has been funding a series of programs through our Foundation to increase the amount of fluid power that’s being taught in schools around the country. Schools apply for these grants, and a review committee evaluates them and helps decide which ones will have the greatest impact for our industry. That’s all good, but since the process is mostly driven by the quality of the proposal, and since the stronger schools are usually better positioned to submit stronger proposals, we have begun to see the grants going to a smaller and smaller subset of schools. And since workforce is what I like to call a “regional phenomenon,” adding more fluid power to schools in a Midwestern state doesn’t always help NFPA members in the Southeast or out West. So we decided that we needed a way to identify regions and schools within regions where support for fluid power education was most needed. Our shorthand way of referring to that objective was the “Education Roadmap.”

What did we do?

NFPA staff spent most of the year researching the problem. The project was led by Carrie Tatman Schwartz, and it began with an analysis of the number of fluid power end-users (using 19 NAICS codes) and NFPA members in each of the 48 continental states. Using this distribution, we split the country into 12 regions of roughly equal size—as measured by the number of fluid power manufacturers and customers, not by geography.

Education Roadmap Regions in US

Next, we looked at the fluid power educational infrastructure that was present in each region. How many Fluid Power Challenge programs were reaching middle school students? How many Project Lead the Way high schools were teaching fluid power? How many 2- and 4-year colleges were teaching substantial amounts of fluid power? And how many universities had research programs focused on fluid power? This is where the bulk of the investigative work came in, and sometimes required hours of combing through school websites and curriculum descriptions to determine the appropriate answers. But in the long-run it was worth it, because it yielded the following statistics on the depth of fluid power instruction going on in each region.

Education Roadmap Excel FileEducation Roadmap Regions (pdf)


What were the results?

In many ways, the results were surprising. By going through the process we discovered many more schools than we were initially aware of that are teaching fluid power to a substantial degree. Those schools will obviously become targets for us to build better relationships with and we continue to seek ways to enhance and support the teaching of fluid power to future engineers and technicians.

We were also able to develop a chart showing the specific ratios of fluid power education resources to NFPA members in each region:

Education Roadmap Ratio Table

The higher the number, the more resources there are per NFPA member. For example, for every NFPA member in Region 1 (Wisconsin and Illinois) there are 0.12 middle schools participating in Fluid Power Challenge programs, 6.74 Project Lead the Way high schools teaching fluid power, 0.41 two-year colleges and 0.22 four-year colleges teaching substantial amounts of fluid power, and 0.04 universities with fluid power research programs. Compare those statistics to Region 2 (which includes most of the Western third of the United States), where for each NFPA member there are many more Project Lead the Way high schools, and more 2-year and 4-year colleges teaching fluid power, but about the same number of middle schools participating in Fluid Power Challenge programs, and no universities with fluid power research programs. You can see how comparing just these two regions leads to some obvious conclusions about where we should be directing our efforts and resources to grow fluid power education.

What’s next?

Which is precisely our next step. As we develop this year’s objectives and action plans for the programs that support fluid power education, we will be taking a close look at the Education Roadmap and making some concrete decisions about where to direct them. Although admittedly comprised of some logical assumptions and estimates, the Education Roadmap is still a tool that we can use to ensure that our workforce development programs benefit the widest possible cross-section of our members.

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