Fluid power industry powering up with new qualification and association

“I’ve been working in fluid power for more than 50 years,” says Garth Woodhouse, Technical Trainer/Product & Sales Support Specialist for Hydraulink NZ. “For nearly 30, we’ve been trying to get a qualification in place.”

Natasja (Tasj) Paulson, Director of Gisborne Hydraulic Services, agrees. “Fluid power has been trying for too long to get recognised as an industry.”

Fluid power refers to the use of fluids under pressure – either hydraulic or pneumatic – to generate, control and transmit power. The varied nature of its applications means that, historically, there has been no qualification for industry professionals. In August of 2022, that landscape changed. “We held an industry meeting,” Tasj says, “with the single purpose of establishing a recognised qualification.” “A qualification for fluid power is not a bureaucratic exercise. This is an industry that can kill,” Garth adds.

“We tried for so long, but there was no way of getting there. Government couldn’t see the value in a qualification specifically for us. When we met with Hanga-Aro-Rau last year, it was like a ray of light; after nearly 30 years of trying, we’ve finally got something.

“The establishment of the Workforce Development Councils (WDCs) was a very, very good thing for a lot of industries, not only ours.

Hanga-Aro-Rau has given us a voice, a conduit to Government, and a recognition that we’ve never had before. With their support, we now have a Level 3 qualification.”

Alongside the new qualification, an industry body has been formed, with Tasj at the helm. “New Zealand Fluid Power Association supports members with increased knowledge, advocacy and better opportunities. Hanga-Aro-Rau encouraged us to lobby WorkSafe and create industry standards through Fluid Power Association.”

Looking ahead, Tasj is eager to create Level 4 and Level 5 qualifications as well. “Some might be happy with just Level 3, but we need pathways for those who want to learn more,” she says. “We’re seeing bigger and more complex machinery being built that the people in fluid power will need to maintain. This requires continual upskilling.”

Tasj and Garth agree that Hanga-Aro-Rau is providing both a sounding board and a voice as they look to the future of the fluid power industry. “I see them as partners who believe in what we’re doing,” Garth says. “They’ve played a significant role in breaking down engineering into smaller pieces. With their support, micro-skills are being recognised now.” “What they’re doing is providing those chunks that might appeal to people more than a whole university degree,” Tasj agrees.

“WDCs are recognising and furthering opportunities for people in the ‘squeezed middle’ we’re hearing so much about,” Garth says. “These are New Zealanders who are sometimes marginalised in their access to learning. If you can give people the opportunity to learn and gain new skills, that’s how you raise the economy.”

“We simply wouldn’t be where we are now without the support of Hanga-Aro-Rau,” Tasj says. “We’d still be battling.”