CFPA Corner: Challenge Accepted
By Frank PirriFluid Power CFPA education
CFPA’s Fluid Power Challenge goes national to seek the next generation of future fluid power professionals.
I have been steadily employed in the fluid power industry all my adult life. I owe this career choice, in part, to one of my high school teachers, Mr. Bunting. I have always been a bit of a gear head so, throughout high school, I took a good mixture of technical and academic courses. In grade 12, I was discussing post-secondary career choices with him and he suggested I look at the Fluid Power and Robotics Program at Centennial College, saying that he thought I would find it challenging and interesting.
I had never heard the term “fluid power” before. I was familiar with many forms of mechanical devices that use hydraulics and pneumatics, like landing gear and heavy machinery, but I never really thought of the technology that made that equipment work. I attended an open house at Centennial College and still remember the tour and watching the promotional movie in the auditorium on the Ashtonbee campus.
Still undecided, I completed grade 13. After reviewing a handful of acceptance letters, ranging from aerospace engineering to theatre set design, I chose fluid power, still not 100% sure why. I am happy I did; maybe it was the movie I had watched the year before.
I mention this only because, if it were not for Mr. Bunting, I would never have heard of the fluid power program. For whatever reason, fluid power just isn’t recognized like other high-tech disciplines. If you think I’m joking, just look into the eyes of someone who asks you what you do for a living and watch them glaze over when you respond “I work in the fluid power industry.”
Few people realize they owe their current standard of living, in part, to fluid power. It’s used to harvest, process and manufacture almost everything that we touch, but few of us even give it a second thought. It’s almost like looking at a human body. We see the outside but rarely think of the blood, bones and muscles that make everything work.
In fact, fluid power technology is the blood, muscles and sometimes bones within many a modern, high-tech machine. And, with today’s heavy integration of electronics controls, fluid power technology is becoming smarter, able to perform movements faster, more accurately and much more efficiently.
We in the fluid power industry already know this, but how do we get the message out to the masses, in particular to younger students? This has been and continues to be one of the main issues that the CFPA Education Committee strives to address. Over the years, we have focused on attracting middle school students to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs. Our annual Fluid Power Challenge continues to be well received with 21 schools participating in this year’s event. However, it currently only includes schools from west Toronto. To reach the rest of Canada, our committee is working on making our Challenge national. This November, we will launch the first ever national challenge in six geographic locations across Canada.
Along with middle schools, we’re looking to attract high school students by becoming more active at college career days. Last spring, six member companies took part at Centennial College’s event. For 2017, we would like to expand that by also participating in Niagara Colleges Career Day and possibly a lunch and learn at Mohawk College. The committee is in the process of developing presentation materials to be used during those events. Our intent is to capture the interest of potential students in choosing a career in fluid power and encourage CFPA members in other parts of Canada to make presentations at local colleges.
To make it easier for students who are interested in fluid power and want to locate a post-secondary institution that offers a fluid power content, the CFPA Education Committee has put together a listing of all the colleges across Canada that do so, as well as any job fairs that are available. We’re also working with the International Fluid Power Society to upgrade the technical knowledge of the current employees of our members.
To aid in closing the loop from education to employment, the CFPA has created an online listing of links to all member companies’ career sites, so they can be easily found by persons seeking employment. We will also be asking local colleges to provide our CFPA link for jobs and to link our site to their specific job postings. This service will be available to CFPA members only. If you aren’t a member, we encourage you to join to take advantage of this and many other benefits that membership provides.
Like Mr. Bunting, the CFPA Education Committee will continue to reach out to young people and those between careers to consider our industry. We aim to make them aware that fluid power is a crucial, vibrant, cutting-edge technology in which they can enjoy a long and exciting career. Get more involved in helping promote careers in fluid power and developing a qualified future work force by joining CFPA.
Frank Pirri serves as the CFPA Education Chair and is the Sales & Product Manager for FD FLODRAULIC.