By Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR, Robotic Industries Association
Training tomorrow’s workforce to use robotics and related automation is one way to help the U.S. and other industrialized nations maintain and improve their standard of living. Low-tech jobs have a way of migrating to low-wage countries which is why so many people believe America is losing its manufacturing base. However, if companies can hire more people skilled in robotics, it could sidetrack the “inevitable” shift to a service economy and lower wages.
Traditional manufacturing techniques often can’t compete with cheap labor which is one reason off shoring has thrived in recent years. Japan has long proven that robotic automation is an effective equalizer, and has done quite well economically despite close proximity to several low-wage countries in Asia. Japan has a culture of providing jobs for life, yet are (and long have been) leaders in the development and implementation of robotics for manufacturing.
A major pillar of Japan’s ascent to economic success is the automotive sector where robots are employed extensively. The same is true of the U.S. Workers in both countries have enjoyed the benefits of good wages for employees that operate, maintain, install, sell and make robots. Today, openings for work in the robotics field is a driver for retraining and academic pursuits.
Educational institutions in both countries use competitions (such as FIRST Robotics in the U.S.) to create interest in robotics. Students in elementary through graduate schools have many opportunities to work with robots and in robotics labs. As the world economy slumped in recent years, government stimulus money has in part been applied to retrain workers for jobs related to robotic automation.
Robotic Industries Association recognizes the importance of the educational sector’s role in growing the robotics industry. RIA’s Membership Committee is guiding the Association toward more involvement with academia, especially institutions that focus on practical robot applications and training.
Contributing time and talent to that committee is Jim Devaprasad, Professor in the College of Engineering, Technology and Economic Development at Lake Superior State University. His school has a $1 million robotics lab which is expanding this year.
“We are excited about a project that is underway now, where we will be installing four Stäubli robots that we acquired this summer for a new flow line with a continuous conveyor system and controlled by an Allen Bradley PLC system using DeviceNet,” said Devaprasad. “RIA and academia have mutual interests and it is essential for the Membership Committee to engage educators and facilitate partnership between the automation industry and relevant academic programs.”
RIA now offers a sponsorship role that allows corporate members to partner with academia. When an RIA industry member sponsors an educational institute, the Association enhances recognition for both members, and facilitates an integration of corporate and academic interests.
“It is up to the partners to decide how the sponsorship will manifest, and there are many well established ways to accomplish that with RIA as a catalyst,” said Devaprasad. “The goal is to strengthen ties between academia and the corporate world where skilled workers are needed.”
An RIA member can sponsor an educator member for only $350 and gain valuable recognition for their alliance, according to RIA’s Director of Marketing & PR, Brian Huse. “There can be signage in the labs, internship arrangements, a direct pipeline for hiring graduates, and special opportunities to lecture to students and faculty so they have information on the latest needs and technology.”
In addition to the benefits of having a connection with an industrial sponsor, Educator members of RIA profit from publishing opportunities and worldwide exposure through RIA’s website (www.robotics.org). These are just some of the factors that enhance student recruitment and placement efforts. (Faculty and staff are invited to submit papers for professional review and publication on Robotics Online.)
Educator members can attend RIA events and workshops at significantly reduced fees and have access to numerous association resources including the Ask the Experts forum on Robotics Online. Membership benefits extend to all faculty members and full-time students of their curriculum.
America needs a workforce that is ready to use and apply robotics in the business sector. RIA estimates that more than 190,000 robots are now being used in the United States, placing the U.S. second only to Japan in overall robot use. It is estimated that more than one million robots are being used worldwide, with countries such as China, Korea and India rapidly expanding their investments in robotics.
“The world economy will recover, but right now it is a tough job market and the stakes are getting higher when it comes to job skills,” said Huse. “We have members that tell us the educational sector is making a strong investment in robots and robotics training. We want to help foster this activity so that more U.S. jobs open up for workers with skills in robotic technology.”
To learn more about education sponsorships, membership and benefits, contact Brian Huse at 734/994-6088 (bhuse[at]robotics[dot]org.)
See Educator Member information on Robotics Online.