We got back from Charlotte, the site of the 2014 Industry Forum, last week and I am still out of breath. As I mentioned in my earlier blog, it was a record attendance of more than 200 folks. 211 people to be exact. 44 golfers–our biggest golf tournament ever (I’m a golfer so I care about that). Glow in the dark putting (made even more fun with an adult beverage). And the best program EVER!

I usually shake my head when someone says it is the best ever because we have had some really excellent educational content in the past. And worse, it means that we have to try to top it next year (but we’ll find a way!). But this was the best–at least for me, from my own perspective. We had simply excellent speakers on topics that I think really hit at the core of our industry.

We started with Rich Wells from Dow Chemical who made a compelling case for why we need to work to reinvigorate manufacturing in the United States. And this is an issue that hits right at every MCAA member–because with a resurgence in manufacturing, there is a growth in the requirement for the instrumentation that manufacturing facilities require–I certainly don’t have to tell YOU what that means for our industry. This is an issue that you should care about. My first recommendation is that you read Dow Chairman Andrew Liveris’ book Make it in America (read my earlier blog about this book) and then get together with your team to devise a plan of how you can work with your local and federal officials to have an impact on manufacturing in America.

I’m not going to review every presentation–they were all great: We were energized by Robert Stevenson’s words on Change, got an excellent vantage point from Al Rivero of Schneider Electric on industry issues, learned more about the attributes of the generations that will soon fill our workforce from two young folks from BridgeWorks. We had great breakout sessions on the IECEx Scheme, Sales KPIs, technology trends and market hot spots. We learned from customer Libby Smith of Fluor about their use of Main Instrumentation Vendors (and got answers from three very bright millenials she brought along with her, making us Boomers more sanguine about the future of our industry!). And we wrapped up with Dr. Jeff Dietrich of ITR who revised his earlier forecast to take OUT the small dip at the end of 2014. Yes, growth will be modest. In other countries around the world, there is recession or no growth. My take: growth of any size is a good thing.

I left one presentation to the end because, if you’ve read my earlier blogs you know that finding talent for our industry is a passion for me. And its a passion for my friend Peter Martin of Schneider Electric/Foxboro. Peter reviewed the history of our measurement and control industry and how we have automated ourselves and industry into a little box that needs new talent. He also gave us hope that the GenExers and Millenials that will succeed us Baby Boomers have the right stuff in their approach to problem solving to keep us on track. Its not a new message but its a message that I think we need to keep hearing and start taking more to heart right at home. I hope that I can persuade Peter to record his presentation or do a webinar for us where we can record it so that I can get that message out more broadly. MCAA will also be working to prepare a roadmap and a toolkit of ideas and information that you can use at your local high schools, community colleges, universities and even engineering schools. I love the Automation Competency Model that was created by the Automation Federation (of which MCAA is a member) and you can find that at their website at www.automationfederation.org but this is SO much more than a diagram of what knowledge or skills folks need to have to be successful in our industry. Its about, as Peter Martin said, telling kids who want to do something that matters that they could help solve world hunger! That’s US–we have the means to address those kinds of issues!

MCAA will shortly form a Workforce Development Committee. Want to help? Give me a shout.