Five years after the first Valve Basics Seminar was held, the course continues to attract a diverse array of young industry professionals from across the U.S. and Canada. More than 1,000 people have attended the course, which originally was designed as a one-day event and eventually grew to two full days. Now, with continual feedback from past attendees indicting they wanted “more” Valve Ed, VMA’s Education & Training Committee is launching a third day of programming in 2015.
At VMA’s October 2014 Valve Basics Seminar & Exhibits in Las Vegas, 90 attendees—including eight mechanical engineering students from the University of Nevada, attending on a scholarship provided by VMA’s educational foundation—learned about the major valve, actuator and controls types, had the opportunity to network with peers and industry veterans, and participated in the popular “Valve Petting Zoo.”
The Basics: Past, Present, Future
Following the event, we spoke to members of the VMA Education & Training Committee, who were enthusiastic when asked about the current event as well as upcoming expansion plans.
Committee chairman Greg Johnson, United Valve, pointed out that the seminar provided an opportunity to reach a lot of young professionals in the industry who might not have had the exposure to practical valve education. “Especially for the scholarship students we have here today, this is good practical learning as opposed to school book learning. And we’re pleased to have a broad cross-section, demographically and geographically, of attendees from around the country.”
We also asked committee members about the origin of the “Valve Ed” program. Vice chairman Leon Brooks of Cameron Valves & Measurement explained the program was created when founding committee members realized there was not a lot of training for people new to the industry, and there was a gap in knowledge between millennials and baby boomers. “We developed this to teach people in the one- to five-year experience level in the industry.” And, now, he continued, the word is going out all over the world that VMA is conducting this course. While attendees have largely been from the U.S., we are seeing folks coming from locations around the globe. At the Las Vegas course, for instance, attendees included a father and son team from Peru, as well as a representative from China. Other countries represented have included Israel, Mexico, Brazil, India and Saudi Arabia.
QTRCO’s Ed Holtgraver, the committee’s actuator lead, also noted that the Basics course came about as a result of colleagues recognizing that people coming in to the valve industry could get a head start if they experienced some hands-on training. “This course was developed to share the knowledge that we have; we put together the program so it can be meaningful, but not over the heads of people just coming in.”
Jeff Kane of DFT Inc. said he met a lot of young engineers at the event who asked about possible career paths. “I’ve been giving them recommendations for career ideas,” he said, including the fact that “engineers going into the sales arena are in demand because you need that technical expertise when talking to customers.” He also noted that it’s great to get the young folks who are still in school thinking of the valve industry as a desirable career.
“Our industry is begging for young people to get involved in this field,” said Kane, “and this program provides a good opportunity to see if this would be right for them.” Kane stressed that the committee uses the feedback from surveys done at the Valve Basics events to tailor the content so students are receiving the information they want. “This is a program that keeps growing in length and content, and we are creating classes for the future based on input from attendees.”
Bert Evans of Emerson Process Management is one of the newer members of the committee; he got involved because of his own experience as the training manager at his company: “I see that there are many millennials coming into the workforce. Forty percent of the workforce will be comprised of them by 2020. The baby boomers are retiring, and the young people coming in need to learn about heavy manufacturing and the process industries, and Valve Basics has a role in educating them.”
Evans was enthusiastic about the decision to add a third day to the course, which he said will include intermediate topics for current students who want to learn more and for past graduates who wish to add another dimension to the knowledge gained in a class taken earlier.
Another newer member of the committee, John Molloy, ASCO Valve, pointed out that there is a huge need for the younger generation to learn about applications involving valves, and that VMA’s Valve Basics Seminar is considered one of the best places for them to gain that knowledge.
Paul Souza of AUMA Actuators has been a member of the education committee since the program was implemented, and he also stressed the importance of not just educating the younger people, but to inspire them to get involved. “I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world with this job,” he said. “This industry is exciting and filled with opportunity. A job in the valve industry doesn’t have to be behind a desk or a monitor; it can be anything you want it to be.”
Coming in 2015
Two Valve Basics courses are scheduled for 2015: May 12-15 in Charlotte, NC, and Oct. 21-23 in San Antonio, TX. Education & Training Committee members are finalizing the third day of programming, which is expected to include the following topics:
- Valve Standards
- Fugitive Emissions
- Valve Materials
- Critical Service Applications & Valves
- Valve Data, Feedback & Asset Monitoring
- Valve Repair
Kate Kunkel is senior editor for VALVE Magazine. Judy Tibbs is VMA’s director of education and editor-in-chief of VALVE Magazine.