I live and work in Ontario (Canada, not California, so please forgive my occasional references to metres, bar, tonnes or poutine), so this blog will describe the state of education here only. Simply put, the state of fluid power education here is quite somber. Fluid power has never been an industry universally recognized vocation in post-secondary schools, in Canada, the US or any other country I’m aware of. Electrical engineering programs are available at any technical college in the universe, but you can count on one hand the schools offering degrees in hydraulics (except maybe Wisconsin, which happens to be the centre of that universe).
Why is there a deprivation of education in a field so lacking in - and needing of - trained professionals? For one reason, it is simple economics; schools are treated as a business and will offer curriculum they know will fill classrooms. The number of individuals pursuing a fluid power degree, diploma or certificate is limited, and it’s not worth the investment from schools to set up programs that may or may not fill seats.
So why don’t people want to fork out dough to educate themselves in fluid power, which would encourage schools to offer the programs to satiate the demand? One reason may be the romance that no longer exists between blue collar jobs and young persons ready to choose a career. It used to be that a teenager and his friends would long after jobs in manufacturing, with their high pay, great benefit package and job security. There was some prestige to these manufacturing positions that no longer exists, leaving outsiders to believe you labour at back-breaking work in a sea of grease … undesirable indeed.
Believe it not, I feel the lack of inspiration is also partly to blame on the government. Yes, I know it’s easy to use that cliché to blame all of our problems on, but I think I have a case here. Consider the government regulations to everything electrical. The standards, practice, manufacture and implementation of anything flowing electrons is extensive, with no step of the way avoiding regulation. Name one government mandated regulation that pertains to a directional valve: oh, I can name one! Here in Canada, Bosch Rexroth offers CSA Certification for their directional valves. The spoiler is that the CSA regulation applies to only the electrical components of the valve!
So why would a lack of legislation prevent our young folk from choosing a career in fluid power? Because the government doesn’t mandate it! In Canada, any electrical work being done in new construction must be performed by a trained and certified electrician. However, any clown and their grandma can modify the hydraulic system of their farm tractor, which could result in a machine unfit for safe operation. Why the gap in regulation exists, I do not know.
Until the governments of the world realize hydraulic equipment injures and kills persons every single day, they will do nothing to force those designing and maintaining the machines to be educated and certified, therefore leaving educational institutions without programs to deliver said education and certification. And until then, I’ll just continue to complain every now and then, but in the mean time, take education into my own hands by learning at every opportunity I get.