One of the most keenly felt needs in today’s industrial world is the lack of skilled employees. Figures from the latest iteration of an ongoing study on this issue by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute (The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing) forecast that manufacturing will see 2.7 million people retire between 2015 and 2025 while 700,000 jobs will be created from economic expansion.
“The number one driver of competitiveness in manufacturing today is not just the lowest cost; it is talent,” says Greg Johnson, chairman of the Valve Manufacturers Association Education & Training Committee. “That means, however, that investment in human capital is one of the best ways to gain an edge on the competition.”
In the valve industry, part of the problem is there aren’t many places to learn about valves, actuators and controls—taught in a non-product-specific manner. VMA’s Valve Basics Seminar & Exhibits was created by VMA to fill that void. The next seminar is Oct. 18-20, 2016 at the Sheraton Brookhollow Hotel, Houston, and planners are expecting another batch of attendees eager to learn the basics of the industry, to brush up on their knowledge or gain a broader picture.
“Even though some end-user markets that depend heavily on valves are down, such as oil and gas, the need for skills will only increase as the technology gets more complicated. Reasonably priced valve training can keep a team sharp and on top of product knowledge,” Johnson said.
The event has grown rapidly both in popularity and in format. The seminar started as a one-day event in 2009 and has expanded to a multi-level course stretching out over three days.
“It’s pretty astounding how much interest putting on this event has garnered in its few years of existence,” Johnson said. “We expect more of the same in October,” he added.
The Valve Basics seminars have already provided much-needed technical information to more than 1,500 people. They include both experienced professionals from within the industry who need to refresh their understanding or are getting into new areas of the business, and people new to valve careers who need to find out what valves, actuators and controls are, how the operate, where they’re used and how to ensure they continue to operate the way they are designed.
The seminar is also attended by personnel from EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) and AEC (architecture, engineering and construction firms) who need to know how to design or specify the best valves and related equipment. Attendees also come from the plants and facilities of end-user industries as well as the people who manufacture and sell products into the industry (such as distributors and manufacturers’ representatives).
The Valve Basics course has also been well-received by upper-level mechanical engineering students who attend because they’ve received one of the scholarships available made available by VMA. The most universal comments among those students is that they had no idea the industry had so many opportunities and challenges.
The three-day event begins with a day of general introduction to the industry as experts cover where valves are used, specific types such as multi-turn, check, quarter-turn and pressure-relief valves, and basics of related equipment such as manual or fluid powered actuators. Day two of the event goes into detail about more complicated valves and related equipment such as how electric actuators work, what solenoid valves do and how process flow is regulated through control valves and related systems.
In the afternoon of day two is one of the most popular features of the event: the Petting Zoo. As with the animal version, the “zoo” allows people to get up close to the equipment that’s being discussed in the classes and see how it actually works and how it operates.
Day three of the Basics seminar, which was added in recent years, delves deep into some of the issues that surround the industry such as fugitive emissions and packing, the types of materials in the industry that face ever-increasing temperature and pressure issues, critical applications and the role valves play in them, special needs of today’s industry such as on/off power for fluid-powered actuators, and areas of specialty such as the data, feedback and asset monitoring in use today as well as valve repair issues.
In addition to classroom learning, a tabletop exhibit on the first day of the seminar gives vendors additional time to talk to attendees about the specific products available and what’s new in the world that supplies to the valve industry.
The basics seminar planners have designed the program so that registration is based on level of participation. Attendees can attend all three days of classes at both the 101 and 201 levels. Those that may already have knowledge of the industry or that have attended previous classes can attend just the third day of 201-level courses. Attendees can also choose to only visit the exhibits.
The speakers who provide the course materials are experts in their particular areas who have many years of experience. One of the top comments given by attendees after each course is that the teachers have a broad and deep knowledge of the valve, actuator and control industry—knowledge that can only be gained through longevity in the business.
“This is one of the reasons the seminars have caught on so well,” Johnson explains. “When you take this basics seminar class, you’re taking advantage of trainers who have decades of experience. These people are there not just to teach, but to answer specific questions that no other source can provide,” he says.
“When you look at it from that perspective, it reveals that we’re helping to fill that very big hole that’s being created by retiring personnel, who are taking their knowledge with them,” Johnson says. “We’re giving the next generation of leaders the basic skills they need but we’re also raising up the level of technical knowledge among all the people in the industry.”
Registration for the Oct. 18-20, 2016 course in Houston is now open, and those interested in learning more or registering online can visit www.VMA.org/ValveBasics.