Automation industry gets ear of Congress
The automation industry has an identity crisis. Not within the industry, but among the rest of the working population. As I wrote in November, the automation industry is The Best Kept Secret because nobody outside the automation industry knows anything about automation or the engineers that make automation happen. We are off the radar - until now perhaps.
Last October, I traveled to Research Triangle Park, NC, with our president, Alan Carty, to figure out ways we could collaborate with ISA and the Automation Federation. At that meeting, Patrick Gouhin (ISA Executive Director) and Bruno Kisala (Automation Federation Managing Director), shared with us a few of their initiatives to help raise more awareness about the automation industry, specifically within the government.
Why would they care? First, the government is particularly interested (or should be) in the U.S. manufacturing infrastructure. Since automation allows manufacturers to better compete in the global economy, it makes sense that the government should be more interested in the automation industry, or at least be more aware of it.
Second, we are all aware of the talent shortage facing the automation industry. A large percentage of the automation workforce is nearing retirement age, and very few new engineers are coming into this industry (at least in the U.S.). This is a significant problem for the automation industry and manufacturing in general. It’s a matter of awareness.
It appears that ISA and the Automation Federation are making progress, at least on the government front. On Monday, ISA announced a visit from North Carolina Congressman David Price. Representative Price, at the invitation of the Automation Federation, made a brief appearance at the 2008 ISA Leadership Training Meeting where he addressed more than seventy ISA leaders before attending a meeting with five Automation Federation leaders at the Automation Federation headquarters.
Representative Price encouraged the ISA leaders, as well as other partners within the Automation Federation, to be proactive in working with Congress with regard to the Federation's initiatives and efforts to become the voice of automation. ISA leaders were urged to help make ISA and the Automation Federation the technical resource for government leaders and the American public.
Representative Price commented about the need for members of Congress to learn about the Automation Federation's goals and objectives for establishing the next generation of automation professionals, and he mentioned relevant programs and activities that Congress has produced in the forms of legislation.
Representative Price offered his service as a sounding board for future Automation Federation congressional activities; outlined government programs in which the Federation should be involved, including the Americans Compete Act; and requested that he be provided with updates as future plans for congressional work come together. Price also promised to serve as a sponsor for the Automation Federation's first Congressional Fly In scheduled for this May.
As a member of the automation community, I’m pleased to see the progress that ISA and the Automation Federation are making with the government. As for the shortage of talent, I renew my challenge to each of you to become proactive in encouraging young engineers to consider automation. After all, what’s more exciting than automating a machine or process? A great example is the work Phoenix Contact is doing with sixth graders during National Engineers Week. Phoenix Contact engineers are leading students in a series of hands-on experiments that reinforce science and math learned in the classroom. Who knows, with government exposure and the talent shortage, automation engineers may finally be able to command the higher salaries they deserve.
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Vice President, Publisher