I write this from my suite at Chateau Vaudreuil, in beautiful Vaudreuil-Dorion Quebec, situated just West of Montréal. The view out my balcony provides me with a breathtaking sight of the Baie de Vaudreuil, itself just North of the St. Lawrence Seaway. If you’ve never been to Montréal or Quebec, I suggest you visit. It’s the closest place to Europe you can be in North America, and if you visit now, the U.S. dollar is currently 30% above Canadian currency, making your trip a bargain.
I’m here for the 2015 Canadian Fluid Power Association annual general meeting. The CFPA is a who’s who of the Canadian fluid power industry, represented by the top manufacturers and distributors in the country. Some of the three-day meeting discussed less exciting business related to running the association, but there were also presentations and discussions leading to passionate response from the attendees.
The bad news for the Canadian fluid power industry is the lack of growth in both our segment and manufacturing as a whole. The industry here has yet to catch up to pre-recession strength, and we may see eighteen months or more before the low CDN dollar yields a payback in export volume enough to re-invigorate the market. The good news is that this will definitely occur, but we just need to be patient.
The discussion that seemed to be the biggest theme during this year’s meeting is not a problem unique to Canada—how are we going to attract the new generation of fluid power professionals to replace the retiring technicians and engineers in the coming decade? Guest speakers, including the International Fluid Power Society’s executive director, Donna Pollander, and president, Marti Wendel, mirrored my observation, and tackled the topic head-on.
Marti, herself a Certified Fluid Power Engineer, expressed her specific concern over the trend of fewer females both entering and succeeding in engineering and technology fields, further exacerbating the hole being left by retirees. Women in engineering fields represent just 3% of the workforce, and I bet the same reason women are left apathetic to fluid power is the same reason young men are, although at a different rate; we are simply doing a poor job of reaching out to and educating teens and young adults about the thriving fluid power careers waiting for them.
With modern, lean and 5S-styled plants, and computer controlled machinery and equipment, the fluid power industry is a different beast than the dirty image of a steel mill or automotive plant our fathers worked in. The jobs are clean, safe and very financially lucrative, and we need to get the message out to the next generation.
We need to be involved with the schools, from grade 6 right through to the universities, to ensure the subject is worth teaching, and the students are engaged in fluid power. I challenge you to get involved and certified with the IFPS, and become a member of the NFPA, CFPA or FPDA. Not only that, become active in the associations by finding out what they’re doing to reach out to the next generation, and then become part of that plan.
Unless we tackle the issue of education and awareness head-on, our industry will never attract the best and the brightest of the new generation. Visit the links below, become involved and do your part.
Canadian Fluid Power Assocation
National Fluid Power Assocation
The International Fluid Power Society