February 2008

Congressman cheers workforce development with ISA visit

By Ellen Fussell Policastro

Automation leaders of tomorrow are going to need support, especially from automation leaders of today and government leaders. That is why the Automation Federation followed up on an earlier request from U.S. Representative David Price (D-NC) to visit ISA late last month, to find out more about the automation team behind the ever-growing workforce development initiative.

The opportunity was perfect for Price to speak to newly installed ISA leaders who were also visiting that same week. During his visit, Price spoke to incoming ISA leaders about the importance of the Automation Federation, "especially in workforce development, and he strongly encouraged ISA leaders as well as other partners within the Federation to be proactive in working with Congress with regards to our initiatives and building the voice of automation in Congress," said Mike Marlowe, the Automation Federation's director of government relations.

Price talked about the need for Congress to hear exactly what the Federation's goals are to further the next generation of automation professionals as well as programs and activities Congress has produced in legislation. The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) through the National Institute of Standards and Technology helps manufacturers be more competitive in the global market. (See related story, "Sharing expertise for automation.")

"One really important objective is the need for the next generation of professionals to competently step into authoritative roles to help manufacturers continue to be competitive," Marlowe said.

In another session with Automation Federation officers, Price agreed to be a strong advocate as a sounding board for ISA and other member organization initiatives in Congress and offered suggestions to help shape those initiatives. He also agreed to put his name forth for a congressional reception with Automation Federation leaders who will meet in Washington with selected members of Congress from around the country-"another great opportunity for the Federation to get our message out to even more members of Congress," Marlowe said.

Price's visit removed any uncertainty about the credibility of the Automation Federation and its member organizations, said ISA Executive Director and Automation Federation board member Patrick Gouhin. While here, "he was able to kick the tires and go for a test drive as he saw our members in action," he said. "He toured our training facilities, touched the results of our technical efforts, and walked through the bricks and mortar that substantiate the technical resource we are. All this left no doubt we are the legitimate body to create an authoritative voice for the profession of automation, and this is the message he will take back to Congress."