Workforce Development
Building the next generation of automation professionals

Dedicated to advancing the automation profession

Central to the mission of the Automation Federation and its 17-member organizations is advancing the science and engineering of automation technologies and applications—moving the automation profession forward. Achieving this goal requires ongoing innovation. And ongoing innovation requires a steady influx of new minds—with new ideas, new perspectives and new skills—to the field.

Increasing the supply of workers qualified and prepared to compete for high-tech jobs in automation and engineering is perhaps the most pressing challenge facing manufacturers worldwide. Experts project that over the next 10 years nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs in the US alone will be needed. However, because of the ongoing shortage of skilled workers, up to 2 million of these jobs may go unfilled.

Today, six out of 10 production jobs remain open because of the talent shortage, according to a recent study by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte.


Related: ISA and the Automation Federation draw attention to the growing need for skilled manufacturing workers


Outlining the competencies for success

In considering how to reduce the skills gap in advanced manufacturing, the Automation Federation recognized that young people as well as educators needed a clearly described roadmap to success in the automation profession.

By working with the US Department of Labor, the Automation Federation in 2009 established the Automation Competency Model (ACM), a multi-tiered model that outlines the specific personal, academic, workplace, and technical competencies required to succeed in an automation career.  In 2014, the ACM was updated with additional competencies in mission-critical operational technology and industrial automation and control systems to respond to the growing need for industrial cybersecurity professionals.

Furthermore, the Automation Federation is currently working in partnership with other industry organizations to develop new competency models specific to both industrial cybersecurity and engineering.


Related: Cybersecurity Competency Model


Related: Engineering workforce development model co-developed by the Automation Federation wins national award


Partnering with community colleges to develop automation curricula and degree programs

Serving nearly half of the undergraduate students in the US, community colleges provide vital workforce development and skills training that would be otherwise inaccessible.

The Automation Federation has long regarded community colleges as essential for providing the community-based education and training needed to groom future automation and control professionals and engineers. For many years, it has been working with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) as well as individual community colleges to help expand students’ access to automation curricula and degree programs.

In 2012, the Automation Federation worked with the AACC to establish the US Automation Community College Consortium. The member colleges that comprise the Consortium use the Automation Federation’s Automation Competency Model as the framework for developing an automation curriculum that will result in two-year degree programs in specific automation arenas and provide an educational track leading to a four-year degree program in automation, engineering, and technology.

The Automation Federation is working with a variety of community colleges across the US to develop two-year associate degrees in automation. They currently include:

  • Cleveland Community College in Shelby, North Carolina
  • Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • Cerritos Community College in Norwalk, California

Participating in grassroots efforts to encourage STEM learning

The Automation Federation collaborates with a wide range of organizations—as well as ISA members—to encourage and support young people in their STEM learning and to open their minds to the remarkable opportunities and rewards of a career in automation.

The best way to accomplish these goals is to meet face to face with young people and educators in schools and at prominent community events, conferences, and science and engineering festivals and competitions.

Every year, representatives of the Automation Federation and ISA participate at events throughout the US to meet with educators as well as students and their family members to answer questions about career opportunities in automation and engineering. These events include:

All automation professionals, engineers and others within STEM-centric career fields (both ISA members and non-members) can find numerous ways to get involved in advocacy initiatives through programs established by ISA- and Automation Federation-supported affiliates, such as:


Supporting a diverse and inclusive high-tech workforce

Integral to the mission of the Automation Federation is an unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion. Attracting greater numbers of women and people of all backgrounds, cultures, religions, races and creeds is critical to the future of the automation profession and to society as a whole.

Don Bossi, President of FIRST®(For Inspiration and Recognition of Science & Technology), emphasizes the value of FIRST’s strategic partnership with Automation Federation and ISA


The Automation Competency Model, the building blocks to a career in automation (view in detail)