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Upcoming FIRST Championship Lets STEM-Gifted Youngsters Showcase Automation Inventiveness

Research Triangle Park, NC – More than 17,000 young people (ages 6-18) from around the world will gather in St. Louis, Missouri next week to enter robots they've built in fun-filled, exciting competitions that celebrate excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), innovative thinking, and teamwork.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Championship , 22-25 April 2015, culminates months of planning, inventiveness and qualifying competitions in a high-tech spectator event designed to inspire more young people to become science and technology leaders and foster self-confidence, goodwill and a collaborative spirit among the participants.

As strategic alliance partners of FIRST , the International Society of Automation (ISA) and its umbrella organization, the Automation Federation, actively support FIRST's educational programs and mission, and encourage more young people to pursue careers that fully utilize their STEM skills and interests.

Practicing automation professionals will be available to answer
 questions about the automation profession and engineering careers

A select group of practicing automation professionals—volunteering on behalf of ISA and the Automation Federation—will be present at the ISA/Automation Federation exhibit (#702) to meet with FIRST competitors and their family members, and answer any questions they may have about career opportunities in automation and engineering. Scheduled to appear are:

“I invite all FIRST competitors—and really all those attending the FIRST Championship—to come by our exhibit and learn about the many rewarding, exciting and well-paying careers in automation and engineering,” says Steven Pflantz, an electrical and automation engineer and ISA and Automation Federation leader who has attended and supported all four FIRST Championship events held in St. Louis. “You'll find out what automation really is all about, what an automation professional really does, and discover the best educational and training paths to follow in order to become one.

“You'll get direct insights—first hand, from working professionals in the field—about what automation jobs are really like. Who better to talk about these types of careers than the people who are actually in them?”

Plantz, who serves as Chair of the Automation Federation Workforce Development Committee, has long worked with ISA and the Automation Federation to raise awareness among lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and industry leaders on the importance of automation and the need to train and educate more automation professionals.

In simple terms, automation professionals create and apply technology to monitor the control and production of goods and services. Automation professionals are needed in virtually all areas of manufacturing and industrial innovation, including:

  • Oil, wind, and solar power production
  • Pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturing
  • Food and beverage manufacturing
  • Computer software and networking
  • Industrial cybersecurity
  • Government, military, and national defense
  • NASA and space programs
  • Automotive industry, including the racing industry
  • Amusement parks and roller coaster design

The need for automation professionals far outpaces available supply;
career options in industrial cybersecurity are particularly bright


The time is right and employment trends are favorable for students interested in careers in automation and engineering. The reason? Demand for qualified employees in these fields far outstrips availability.

For example, the manufacturing-sector in the US employs nearly 12 million people (the equivalent of 1 in 6 private sector jobs) and supports almost 5 million more jobs. However, five percent of manufacturing jobs remain unfilled due to a lack of skilled candidates. By one estimate, the US alone will need more than 120 million workers with advanced manufacturing skills by 2020. At the current pace, America will prepare less than half of that number.

“The good news for young people who are capable in STEM is that there are a lot of career options relating to automation,”  reports Pflantz. “These are well-paying careers that are very rewarding. They give young people the opportunity to invent, explore and create new ways of making our economy, our society, our world better.”

Career opportunities for graduates seeking careers in industrial cybersecurity are particularly bright.

Unlike information technology (IT) cybersecurity that protects, for instance, credit card data from being stolen, industrial cybersecurity defends critical infrastructure—such as such as power plants, utilities, transportation networks, water and wastewater treatment facilities—from being damaged and disabled.

The industrial automation and control systems (IACS) that operate these plants and facilities are highly susceptible to cyberwarfare. A cyberattack can shut down and severely disrupt safe plant and facility operations, putting the environment and economy as well as lives in jeopardy.

ISA has been at the vanguard of the industrial cybersecurity movement. It has developed internationally recognized security standards (ISA/IEC-62443) proven to prevent potentially devastating cyber damage to the IACS and networks that operate these essential plants and facilities.

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