Pittsburgh’s Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute announced a new education endorsement program earlier this summer with an aim to connect employers and talent in the sector. And last week, it added a local school to the list.
The purpose of the endorsement program is to fill a gap between manufacturing employers looking to hire the best-prepared employees and students looking to attend programs that will best prepare them for a career in robotics manufacturing. Designed by the 300 members of the ARM Institute — which is headquartered at Mill 19 in Hazelwood Green — endorsements are given to educational programs that excel in benchmarks like industry relevance, curriculum efficacy and training efficiency, among others.
So far, the ARM Institute has endorsed five schools, now including the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC), which has eight campuses across the county. The application-based program is open to institutions offering education from the high school to graduate school level, and those that are endorsed will be highlighted on the RoboticsCareer.org website highlighting manufacturing jobs in the industry.
The hope is that this validation will not only attract new students to endorsed programs, but also help set standards and bring new awareness to the career pathways in robotics manufacturing. By highlighting schools that provide courses and trainings in all of the necessary skills for manufacturing, the endorsements could also address the current skills gap in the industry that the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte recently estimated could result in 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030 in the United States.
“We look at all educational programs that focus on robotics through the lens of, are you creating a good worker for the industry?” ARM Institute Senior Certification Manager Linda Wood told Technical.ly. Aspects of the endorsement review process are modeled after the ISO 9001 manufacturing audit, Wood said, and consider details that help verify the processes and practices of the schools. (ISO is short for International Organization for Standardization.)
"Automation is going to drive manufacturing forward in the future. And people who understand how that automation works and are able to keep it running will be very valuable employees."
Many of those details include looking at whether the schools consult the robotics industry on decisions around new classes, or whether schools develop technical programs that are focused to the specific needs of their communities. Another important consideration is the cost of a program, Wood said, emphasizing that reasonable and accessible price is something the institute looks for when making an endorsement.
“It has to be affordable to the middle-income worker, because that’s who we need to be going through these training programs, to upskill themselves,” she said, referencing the need to lower as many entry barriers as possible to address the skills gap highlighted by the Manufacturing Institute report.
The mechatronics curriculum available at CCAC specializes in computer programming, electrical systems, physical systems, robotics and additive manufacturing. It checked all the boxes, Wood said: “It teaches everything that someone would need to know to move from doing the actual manual application to running the robot that will do the application for you.”
The ARM Institute’s headquarters in Pittsburgh alone speaks to the continued expertise available in the robotics industry here, but this endorsement of CCAC’s program also underscores how future jobs here will be even more tied to the industry. The need for operational personnel and technician positions will undoubtedly follow the increase innovation Pittsburgh has seen over the last decade, Wood said.
“This is where a lot of our research and development is taking place, and because of that, a lot of businesses here in this area, are the first to adopt these technologies,” she said. “And so if nothing else, I believe that a lot of opportunities are going to be coming forward in for these robotic technicians.”
The heavy presence of autonomous technology here will have an important role. While the goal is to create robots, vehicles or other machines that can operate without human intervention, there will still be a need for maintenance and oversight roles, as well as manufacturing skills catered specifically to mass production of this disruptive tech.
That need, Wood argued, won’t make human jobs obsolete, but instead restructure the requirements of the robotics manufacturing industry.
“I do believe that automation is going to drive manufacturing forward in the future,” she said. “And people who understand how that automation works and are able to keep it running will be very valuable employees in the manufacturing world.”
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-