by ABID MUNAWAR
(Operations Lead, US P&L, at INTECH Process Automation)
Change is inevitable, it comes whether we like it or not. The only solution is to embrace it proactively and positively. Therefore, those who do not prepare for tomorrow, lose a lot. In the progressively changing modern world, where technologies become obsolete multiple times during the careers of individuals, adapting to changes is the key to maintaining competitive advantage for a company.
According to Control Engineering magazine, there are more than 2000 active System Integrators in the world today, and that number is growing. It is estimated that the Process Automation and Instrumentation Market will be worth $180.26 billion by 2020. In contrast however, there is minimal enrollment in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects at school, college and university levels these days. It is predicted that this trend can lead to a major skill shortage in the automation market in the near future.
An automation system integrator uses a blend of engineering skills and its engineers are critical assets who provide deliverables to address customer needs and generate revenue. Skill development for these resources is an integral part in having and maintaining a competitive edge. The rapid changes in technology require engineers to be on the fast track; learning quickly to stay ahead of the competition and meet the industry’s increasing requirements. Companies achieve this competency building through need based trainings, provided by a third party vendor. Building on core competencies is the key to sustaining a company’s presence and pursuing growth; it also boosts performance in comparison to job-based approaches.
A key factor to building this competency is to have resources that are keen about learning and conditioned to acquire more knowledge through their lifetimes. Competency development has to start at the school, college and university levels. Many educational institutions have taken initiatives in launching competency-based self-directed learning experiences to prepare their students for a lifelong learning mindset. For example, some universities have implemented a rule that all students must pass Competency Examinations in addition to regular exams to obtain their baccalaureate honors degree.
Knowledge is a lifelong pursuit. Under the Continuing Professional Development, major career roadmaps (i.e. Electronics and Mechatronics Engineering) have certifications categorized as Entry, Associate, Professional, Expert and finally the Architect. These certifications are offered by prestigious societies with a successful historical background. They help in developing competencies of individuals and enhance the company’s image and goodwill.
With a goal of increasing the number of skills-certified individuals, it is important that employers begin to make certifications a job requirement, or at least an expectation (The Manufacturing Institute, December, 2012). For this to take place, gaps or missing competencies need to be documented with consensus. Once documented and represented as a roadmap, it will be relatively easier and clearer for the company to assess how to integrate the employee’s competency matrix with the existing performance management tools/techniques.
This is what the Competency Management Framework for Operations and Engineering at INTECH is striving for. The current initiative took off on 22nd April 2014 and completed on 7th July 2014, covering 5500 HRD hours of imparting knowledge to 10 trainee engineers by the combined efforts of 18 different trainers. This is just the start and has enabled us to learn lessons for improvement and further enhancement.