I suspect that this has made ISA re-think its value proposition, and how to present it. The keynote on the first day was from Dr. Peter Martin, of Invensys, and was called “The Future of Automation.” It was an accurate look at the value proposition of the automation professional in the manufacturing industries.
The Plenary session on the last day was a panel on workforce development, with Martin, Steve Huffman, a former ISA president and vice president of Mead O’Brien Corp., Paul Galeski, CEO of the most successful independent control system integrator, and Maurice Wilkins, ISA Fellow, IChemE and InstMC Fellow, and vice president at Yokogawa. Many ideas were brought forward about how to stop the coming shortage of automation professionals in both the asset owner and vendor companies. All of them will work, either severally, or together. What is lacking is the coordination and funding to carry them out.
Emerson CEO Steve Sonnenberg, in his keynote at Emerson Exchange in October, said that he had hired 4000 new automation professionals in 2012-2013 and would have hired another 4000, but couldn’t find qualified people to hire.
Keith Nosbusch, CEO of Rockwell Automation has been pointing to the need for more STEM-trained workers for years, and has supported FIRST robotics heavily.
The CEOs of Dow, DuPont, and Air Products have been vocal in recent years about not being able to find and hire qualified workers, many of whom will work with automation systems.
The White House has been preaching STEM education, and putting up money for it. Everybody knows that there is now a shortage of qualified technical workers, and there will be a serious lack of qualified technical workers in just a couple of years, as the baby boomers retire. We got an unlooked-for bonus from the financial meltdown of 2008-2009, because it delayed the massive retirements that were just getting under weigh until now as people rebuilt their retirement funds. We all know the need is coming.
And yet, the professional organization for automation professionals can’t get 500 people to attend its premier event.
ISA has a value proposition. It has high quality books, training, and thought leaders. But it has been selling “retail” to its members for years. It’s members have found that paying for training, books, and so forth, by themselves isn’t getting them better jobs, or higher pay.
So, to the CEOs of the vendor and asset owner companies who have been complaining about the current and future lack of trained and qualified employees, please consider this.
ISA can deliver these employees to you, trained and ready to work, but they need the money to do it. You have the money. Give ISA the money to concentrate on the professional training for engineers and technicians in the automation space, and the qualified people that you need will appear.
ISA can coordinate this across the global stage. It is the International Society of Automation. If we let ISA wither and die, we will have no organization that can deliver you the trained and experienced employees you say you need and cannot find.
As a profession, we know what has to be done. As a Society, ISA can do those things, but they are limited to what they can do because they don’t have the funding, on an ongoing basis, from vendor and asset owner companies they need to do the job.
So, asset owners and vendors, fork it over.