ISA Training and Mentoring Programs for the Automation Industry

This article is an excerpt from InTech magazine article, by Steve Pflantz.

Workforce development is a hot topic among the ranks of ISA and the Automation Federation (AF) these days, as well as with a host of other organizations and agencies around the world. Recent articles have covered specific components of workforce development, so I felt maybe it was time to pull back and take a quick overall view of what is going on collectively within ISA and AF and present the big picture.

Starting on the Kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) front, we are engaging in the support of the overall Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) initiative. As working professionals, this makes sense, as it equates to long-term recruiting of future professionals to feed our starving profession. From a physics perspective, the sooner you establish the course, the easier and more efficient the journey. Affecting a student’s chosen path prior to high school is critical so they take the prerequisite STEM classes needed to prepare for engineering studies. The critical range of students to reach is likely in grades 6-8. I have worked with kids in this age range: They are sharp, they understand the importance of a career, they know what a good income is, and once they see the carrot dangling in front of them, they are not afraid of a few years of hard work. The end result: More students in the pipeline to becoming technical professionals. The National Career Development Association, one of the latest member organizations of AF, represents career and guidance counselors around the world. The 5,000 members of this organization provide the pathway to present to students throughout their education years the importance of what STEM means to their futures and give them insight into career paths in the automation profession.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an exciting organization energizing young people all over the world to find out what STEM means through robots. AF, along with ISA, developed an alliance with FIRST to help deliver the message about FIRST and add our voice about automation. Building and competing with robots is a fun and effective way to ignite the interest and passion for pursuit of technology among the K-12 crowd. Over 250,000 students are having fun experiencing technology, learning to embrace technical challenge rather than shy away, as well as learning interpersonal skills needed when they reach the working world. AF members are stepping up to the plate as volunteer mentors, technical advisors, trainers, and so on. Growing this effort is building our foundation for the future.

ISA’s cool jobs program is still active and working to show students in junior high and high school that automation careers are fun and achievable-more so than what typical society presents as cool and viable career paths. Automating amusement park attractions or high-tech factories using the latest technology are but two examples of opportunities they are exposed to.

With AF’s work the U.S. Department of Education at state and federal levels, we are helping build technical education programs and curriculums that promote and teach technical skill sets. These efforts cover the range from automation focused curriculums in high schools to developing ABET accredited automation engineering curriculums. Do not forget the long running support from ISA for post secondary technical education programs.

Programs are in place to pick up the students once they leave the academic world and enter the working world. Things are quite different there compared to the world they lived in the last 12 to 16 years. While they have already made a definitive choice for a profession, there are still many opportunities and choices to make. Some guidance in navigating the many options is crucial, and it is the basis for the ISA Mentoring program and YAPFEST.

The ISA Mentor program allows young professionals (and everyone else) to seek out a technical professional in a specific industry sector and/or technical expertise areas to be their mentor. YAPFEST is an annual ISA Automation Week event to gather Young Automation Professionals (YAP) (age 30 and under) together with seasoned professionals for networking and mentoring. ISA Sections have been reaching out to post-secondary students and new professionals to attend local section activities for many years and continue to do so. Face-to-face mentoring and networking opportunities are abundant.

Read the full article at InTech magazine.
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