Celebrating a Dedicated Automation Industry Contributor: Ken Ryan

  We Celebrate Dedicated Automation Industry Contributors: Dr. Ing. Ken Ryan

By Bill Lydon, Editor, Automation.com

The automation industry lost a dedicated and creative professional to Dr. Ing. Kenneth (Ken) Ryan, who died in the meantime On July 28, 2018, I fly with a private plane. I have met Ken Ryan for over 15 years and have become good friends. Throughout this time, I found Ken to be a knowledgeable, inventive and passionate professional, always passing on the profession and inspiring young people. Ken was an amazing man with a wide range of knowledge and interests that he enthusiastically pursued. My prayers are with the family, whom I know was valued by Ken, as our professional conversations would always be with the family. These discussions took place several times during numerous industry events. Ken and I have even worked together in some cases to promote programming standards for industrial automation in the PLCopen organization, to work at trade shows and to give joint presentations. I am sure that many of you belong to the tantalizing conversations and the flow of ideas common to Ken.

Ken Ryan: Building the Industry

Among his professional achievements, Ryan has been instrumental in creating the hugely successful mechatronics training program at Alexandria Technical and Community College, Alexandria MN. The program has earned an excellent reputation in the industry and graduates are highly sought after.

Ryan was also Director of Education at BE.services, a service that provides experts to outsource automation software development services and training, in particular in the creation of BE.educated, the e-learning platform for industrial automation software IEC 61131-3 Training

In addition, Ryan was an expert in the training and application of IEC 61131-3 programming and PLCopen standard and had previously served as a member of the board of directors of PLCopen.

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Advancing automation through professional development

One of the areas in which Dr. Ing. Ryan and I were particularly attached to the need for better-educated people in the automation and efforts to create an environment in which young people in the automation industry can thrive. After a particularly intense discussion on the emerging skills crisis, I asked Ryan to share his insightful expertise in an InTech magazine with an article on the industry situation. I have mentioned this article many times in my reporting and, given Ryan's industry outlook and expertise, is still accurate and informative. He will be missed a lot.

*** Dr. med. Ken Ryan InTech Executive Corner Article March / April 2010 ***

The "Skilled Skill Crisis" …

Ken Ryan

Editor's note: Ken Ryan is an education professional committed to educating people to improve comments on North American topics. This is a perspective, and InTech is interested in perspectives from other parts of the world with similar topics.

We talked about an "emerging" skills shortage in this country as much as about "potential."

Well, they both happened!

It's not just the shortage of skilled workers that knocks on our front doors, it's now in our living rooms as we constantly change our furniture.

There are two main reasons for this:

  1. We were mistaken in believing that we could build a sustainable economy without the enduring production activities that characterize those nations that threaten to eclipse us.
  2. We are not only facing an aging of skilled workers, but a collateral erosion of the educational supplies needed to replenish supply.
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The reversal of the first problem requires a sharpening of collective social will beyond the attention of the American public. In this case, "Resistance is futile!" We can sit down, pick up our checks and wait for the end; However, I believe that it is still in our power to restore the dominance of the manufacturing industry in our society. With this determination in mind, we need to point out why we are in this predicament and then focus on solving number two problem.

First, we educators have participated in a self-absorbing focus on academic purity, pensions and grade of isolation and politicization of the American education system and took our collective eye off the price of service for the next generation.

Next, in the pursuit of optimized conclusions for its shareholders, the industry has corrupted and devalued skilled employees while at the same time giving up its social contract for training its most valuable resource, its future worker.

Now both parties blame the government's inability to adequately finance the education system that everyone in their haste has given up on self-exaltation.

What can post-secondary education do? (Really get …)

  • Invite dedicated industry representatives to teaching advisory committees. Listen to them, but listen better.
  • Discard your laminated lesson plans. Just because it was right to teach yesterday does not mean that it is relevant today.
  • Participate in the Industrial Standards Committees.
  • Get out of the tower and participate in current industry trends. Ask the following questions: What is the industry doing? What do you need from us? How can we deliver?
  • Finish each student's specialization by limiting its value to the employer.
  • Make it more practical and less theoretical. There has to be a balance between the two.
  • Begin to teach technicians in the technical spectrum (eg mechatronics).
  • Take on the tasks of technical education that has given up the secondary education system.
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What can the industry do? Invest in the future workforce that will make you successful.

  • Stop the outsourcing.
  • Participate in teaching advisory committees at your local technical / municipal college or university.
  • Open your facility for summer industrial co-op educators.
  • Assure your legislators to support education funding for skilled technician education.
  • Stop closing blind eyes to close practical education programs in secondary schools.
  • Begin to appreciate technicians and technologists as you appreciate engineers. (We hope.)

Effective technical education and the development of technicians by companies are serious problems that require serious action. Forming a circular firing squad will not do the job. This is not a gradual decline in the mediocrity that we face, but an ever steeper spiral into economic malaise.

We are rapidly approaching the turning point. The day will come when a threat to national security from our cat of the service economy will wake us, only to find that the educational infrastructure needed to support a nimble, technologically advanced response has fallen into a state of neglect Hour

As Warren Buffett said, "You never know who will swim naked until the tide runs out." In terms of lack of skills, we are not only naked, but the global tyrant on the beach threatens to hit sand in our work.

 Celebrating a Dedicated Automation Industry Contributor: Ken Ryan

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