Launching a lubrication career

Edward P. Salek, CAE, Executive Director | TLT Headquarters Report July 2018

STLE's Toronto Section addresses a major challenge to the field—one person at a time.

Attracting young people into careers in lubrication has become a major industry challenge, say 62% of respondents to a recent STLE survey.
© Can Stock Photo / zurijeta

In official terms, the local sections affiliated with STLE serve a number of important purposes. But their primary contribution is to “disseminate knowledge of tribology and lubrication engineering, both theoretical and practical.”

The potential for turning this staid purpose into real-world impact comes alive in a story that former STLE director Jim Arner shared with me recently. Jim also is a long-time leader in the STLE Toronto Section and was honored in 2015 with the Vic Joll Award for distinguished service to that local section. Arner now runs his own lubrication consulting company following a 35-year career in Canada with Texaco, Imperial Oil and Chevron Lubricants.

“The Toronto Section supports a few students with STLE memberships, and we also have a networking offer for newcomers to Canada where we pay their membership and invite them to our meetings to establish connections,” Arner explained.

He gives full credit to fellow section member Behshad Sabah, who conceived the newcomer program as part of his work to increase membership and student outreach. Sabah, who holds three STLE certifications (CLS, OMA I and OMA II), is currently a senior technical advisor for Petro-Canada Lubricants Inc., based in the Toronto area.

This program was of particular value to a young man named Yen Garcia, who had the opportunity to benefit from the section’s membership fee exemption. This emerging professional networked and made valuable connections at Toronto Section events and built his knowledge of the industry through local presentations and training workshops. Without the Toronto Section’s outreach, Garcia said he likely would have registered for a pharmaceutical-school program.

Instead, this generous support launched what has become a successful and ongoing lubrication career. Garcia is now a lubrication specialist working in another part of Canada for Arctic Diamond Mine, which is world-renowned for producing premium, gem-quality diamonds. The Toronto program gets his full credit for making this happen, and Garcia stresses the need for similar programs targeting people with a desire to develop lubrication knowledge and launch a professional career.

Now here’s the best part of the story, and it says a great deal about the impact a simple program can have on one individual’s career. Garcia began participating in the Toronto Section in 2009 and contacted section leadership in 2018 to inform the group about his career progression. The conclusion of his message said it all, “Thank you, Behshad, and STLE Toronto!”

Jim Arner’s reaction to this message, “Reaching out—just a few dollars. Making a difference for someone—priceless!”

The bigger picture behind this episode is that workforce development has been identified as a critical issue for the lubricants industry. In STLE’s 2017 Emerging Trends Report, 62% of respondents rated the ability to attract talented and educated employees as a major challenge to the field. Not surprisingly, many companies are committing resources on an individual basis to meet this challenge.

While it will take consistent effort, this one story is a reminder of how organizations like STLE can have a specific business impact on our member companies and the customers they serve. It also encourages leadership to consider what the organization can do to identify and support people who will become the tribology and lubrication experts of the future.

The solution to this complex problem, as the Toronto program demonstrates, will be found in efforts to make individuals of many different backgrounds feel welcome in our industry.
You can reach Certified Association Executive Ed Salek at