Technical Education Post

News and Information for Technical Educators

The Building Automation Industry Faces a Skills Gap. This New Program Will Help Close It.


Imagine constructing a new Paris every weekThis will actually happen over the next 40 years in a way – as the world is expected to add 230 billion square feet of new buildings.

Like their predecessors, the buildings of the future will be made of physical materials such as bricks and concrete and steel. But these buildings also will be augmented with software. The intelligent buildings of the future will be connected to what I call the Internet of Really Big Things and capable of operating autonomously.

You might think then… Well, maybe building automation isn’t the right field to enter into right now. Humans are clearly being replaced; artificial intelligence is taking over.

But that’s not true at all. This is an example of automation elevating the role of the human. The human skills are merely changing to combine both hands-on and digital skill sets. In fact, the building automation industry now faces a skills gap as it looks to fill tens of thousands of open jobs.

We hear often about the white collar/blue collar divide. These jobs – what we call middle-skills – are the new collar. These well-paying jobs can be attained by pursuing technical education beyond high school, including at community colleges. These are the skills and careers that will give the middle class a real leg up.

These jobs pay well. Salaries for these positions at Siemens start around $55,000 annually.

These jobs are part of the digital economy and tech world. Technicians not only make repairs on-site; they use machine learning and AI to diagnose problems. They also use electronic devices to monitor sites remotely.

These jobs are purpose-driven – something that really matters to young people. As much as being financially secure, young people want a job that enables them to positively impact the world. And the building automation industry opens these doors.

Here’s how: Buildings contribute a giant sum – roughly 40 percent – of all global carbon emissions. Yet intelligent technologies are a foundation to dramatically reduce this footprint. This puts building automation professionals on the frontlines of the fight against climate change.

So as the Siemens Foundation, which I’m proud to chair, talked to industry leaders – particularly in Siemens Building Technologies – about how to close this skills gap, we identified two key areas where we could make a difference. We saw that the building automation industry lacked a nonproprietary, portable and industry-recognized certification. We also determined that students would benefit from the creation of more career pathways to reach these opportunities.

In my speech today at the National Skills Coalition 2019 Skills Summit, I’ll share the Siemens Foundation’s new strategy to address these needs.  

The Siemens Foundation, Siemens Building Technologies, and the Association of Controls Professionals are launching a new workforce training program for building automation professionals.

The Association of Control Professionals, or ACP, is the leading trade organization serving the building automation field. ACP will lead the development of the nation’s first nonproprietary industry certification to train the next generation of building automation professionals. The Siemens Foundation and Siemens Building Technologies will then work together to create community college training programs as well as K-12 career pathways aligned to the ACP standards through a new initiative called SPARKS, which stands for STEM Partnerships to Advance Real-World Knowledge and Skills.

We are endeavoring not just to address industry-wide workforce needs but to address the broader needs of society. As we push this forward, we’re going to focus on reaching traditionally underserved or underrepresented communities to bring new people and new talent into software-driven fields.

And this is just the beginning. Over the next year, the Siemens Foundation will expand its work to more Siemens business partners. Our plan is to work with industry leaders to identify talent pain points, then to partner with education and nonprofit leaders to develop solutions.

I look forward to updating you as SPARKS progresses. Healthcare and digital manufacturing are next up in our efforts to promote middle-skill opportunities, to close skills gaps in STEM technical fields, and to expand what is humanly possible.

Barbara Humpton, CEO, Siemens USA

Editor’s note: This post was published in advance of Barbara Humpton’s lunch keynote at the National Skills Coalition 2019 Skills Summit.

Tom Shaw

Technical Education Post, Online Publisher

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