Certification program helps to define automation profession

By Control Engineering Staff October 6, 2005

ISA’s certification program, Certified Automation Professional (CAP) , will play a critical role in the future of the automation industry, the organization says.

CAP represents the first certification for the automation field, ISA says. The initial step of the program was ISA’s completion of a feasibility study to survey the market regarding the proposed certification. CAP’s feasibility study supported the concept of worker differentiation through certification in the automation field. According to the employers surveyed, 77% believed certification would enhance recognition and respect for individuals working in the field. Over 60% of the employer respondents agreed that remuneration and benefits should increase for certified automation professionals.

The program’s job-study analysis, released in 2004, distills the industrial automation field into its basic functions. The analysis also validated the CAP exam and ensured that the CAP exam questions accurately tested the skills and knowledge needed for automation professionals to be effective.

Jim Henderson, executive vice president of the Psychometric Department at Castle Worldwide, oversaw the job study analysis for CAP. He said, ”Job tasks can be grouped together in very general areas of responsibility called domains. Then for each task there would be knowledge and skill lists associated with it.” As development of the CAP program began, an expert panel developed a list of domains associated with the automation field. Castle took the list and surveyed 217 professionals and manufacturers to determine each task’s importance.

Six ”domains of practice” that the CAP panelists identified were:

Feasibility Study—Identify, scope, and justify the automation project;

Definition—Identify customer needs and complete high-level analysis for fulfillment of requirements;

System Design—Prepare complete conceptual design of the control and information systems including specifications of system hardware and software;

Development—Software development and coding;

Deployment—Field installation, and checkout and startup of the systems; and

Operation and Maintenance—Long-term system support.

Survey respondents ranked each of six tasks for:

Importance, ”or the degree to which knowledge in the domain is essential to the minimally competent practice of [industrial automation];”

Criticality, ”or the degree to which adverse effects (of some type) could result if the certified automation professional is not knowledgeable in the domain;” and

Frequency, or, ”the percent of time the certified automation professional spent performing the duties associated with each domain.” Comparing the rankings of the panelists and the respondents, the analysis showed that System Design was the most important, critical, and frequently applied domain.

Job Analysis Study has a direct influence on the CAP exams because, having validated that the exams will test job-relevant competencies, the study provided a blueprint for test developers mapping out how many of the exam’s 175 items would cover each of the six domains.

According to the test blueprint of the Job Analysis Study, System Design will account for 24.94% of the test, which is a plurality at 44 test items. Operation and Maintenance, which the survey respondents consistently ranked near, or at, the bottom of each scale, will only account for 10.95%, or 19 test items.

New Book: Separately, ISA Released ‘Electronic Security for Manufacturing and Control Systems—An Overview’ by Robert Webb.

Through a series of Microsoft PowerPoint slides, it provides an overview of electronic security techniques and standard status for the manufacturing and control systems environment. Based on the author’s experience with ISA’s SP-99 committee, it is a tool for self-study and for familiarization with industrial electronic security systems. This overview introduces security concepts outlined in two popular ISA Technical Reports, ANSI/ISA-TR99.00.01-2004 and ANSI/ISA-99.00.02-2004.

For related information from Control Engineering , see “ Change: The New Normal .”

Visit Control Engineering ’s subscription-based Resource Center to access

— Richard Phelps, senior editor, Control Engineering richard.phelps@reedbusiness.com