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2016 November 7 - 10:38 am

Community Colleges Key Sources Of Robotics Training

Corporate Leaders Say Robotics Offers Job Opportunities For Young People

American business leaders have identified robotics as a major source of jobs for the nation’s youth with many openings currently unfilled. In a poll of 200 senior corporate executives on which industrial sectors would create the most jobs for our youth during the rest of the decade, 81 percent mentioned robotics as a “top five” area.

The poll was conducted for the National Robotics Education Foundation (NREF) by Information Strategies, Inc. (ISI) in April-July, 2015. The challenge the respondents expressed is how to awaken interest in, and train students for, these expanding opportunities.

Robotics is entering everyday life in many different areas. Amazon is exploring package delivery by drones, i.e., robots. Most distribution centers for America’s retail and wholesale markets utilize robots to pick-and-pack shipments. Google just announced it will report progress on its attempt to create a self-driving car. From cars and factory tools to household appliances and toys, robots are now ubiquitous, readily available to fly, drive, and maneuver on land, sea, and air.

According to a number of studies, the robotics industry is in a very expansive mode, today, and this explosive growth is showing no signs of deceleration. Companies of all sizes are sprouting up across the country owing to vast opportunity based on growing demand. They will need new workers with robotics knowledge and skills. Today, there are an estimated 150,000+ unfilled positions in robotics related workplaces. These positions often pay higher than average salaries for even the most basic service openings, according to an ISI survey.

By 2020 job openings are expected to grow to almost 500,000 positions. In their comments, executives said all of these areas and many more will require individuals who can design, build, maintain and/or program these machines.

Thomas Atwood, NREF’s executive director, noted, “These openings are not limited to big companies. The industry is spawning rapid growth of smaller entities as well. Most new jobs in America are generated by smaller companies and they are in the forefront of this revolution.” Atwood noted that although a few big firms such as KUKA, FANUC and ABB are well known for manufacturing industrial robots, uncounted thousands of independent global consultants, distributors, engineers, integrators and programmers are also adding enormous value through the development of software and add-on devices.

Moreover, entirely new robotics applications are emerging in the fields of scientific research and healthcare — and particularly in the realm of skilled professional services. Recent examples popularly promoted in the media include medical and financial applications developed with IBM Watson computers. Many commentators believe that such computerized applications — which are becoming essential tools for professionals—will soon be standard fare in the modern workplace.

Robots are not only cleaning our carpets, they are vital “insurance” protecting professionals from malpractice litigation. “Not only has the robotics industry opened platforms for service providers, it has also increased the demand for service robots across a growing range of professional practice areas,” he added.

Atwood also points out:

• According to a 2013 article in Logistics Management, global demand for robots was forecast to increase nearly 11 percent per year through 2016.

More recent reports confirm that the robotics industry continues to mushroom. In November, 2015, cbsnews.com reported, “Demand for robots have surged at a compound annual growth rate of 17 percent since 2010, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Last year, sales hit $10.7 billion, with 229,000 robots sold, up 29 percent from the year before. The global robotics market is expected to reach $152.7 billion by 2020.” www.cbsnews.com/ news/demand-for-robots-artificialintelligence-rising

In October, 2016, the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) reported that “[t]he total number of service robots for professional use sold in 2015 increased by 25 percent. The sales value surged by 14 percent to a new record of US $4.6 billion. By 2019, sales forecast indicates another rapid increase up to an accumulated value of US$ 23 billion for the period 2016-2019.” www.ifr.org/news/ifr-press-release/service-robotics-835/

• Five countries — the US, Japan, Germany, China, and South Korea — combined to account for 68 percent of the $12.3 billion global robot market in 2011 and will continue to dominate the overall market through the next decade.

• Furthermore, the robust outlook for service robot demand is leading an increasing number of companies to enter the market, especially in the medical and consumer product sectors, and this should increase competition and further lower costs.

• Like service robots, industrial robots are used for a variety of functions, including handling, welding, assembly and disassembly, cleanroom operations, dispensing, and processing. However, handling and welding operations dominate.

According to an article found in The Wall Street Journal, a new generation of highly complex industrial robots for manufacturing in operation worldwide hit well over 1,200 in 2014 and will hit just under 2,000 by 2017. “Not only are designers and builders needed for this new generation but highly trained service personnel are needed,” Atwood concluded.

According to JoAnn M. Laing, NREF’s chairperson, “There are other reasons for adding robotics education tools into regular class lessons… Building robotics education tools into school curriculums can encourage boys and girls to better understand other disciplines.”

“For instance, in demonstration classes, utilizing, building and driving robotic devices can help students understand mathematics, engineering, and scientific principles,” she continues.

“Equally as important, as numerous programs have demonstrated, utilizing robotics into teaching at-risk children reduces dropout rates by almost 80 percent,” she said. “Today, there are many schools offering after-hours programs revolving around robotic competitions sponsored by such organizations as FIRST, LEGO, MINDS-I and Vex.”

“One need only attend one of these competition to see the enthusiasm and commitment from these young people, to see the value of adding competitions. The diversity of participants demonstrates the value educational robotics offers our nation’s youth,” added Atwood.

Atwood, founding editor of Robot magazine, also said: “Interestingly, fun projects like this attract both boys and girls up to about age twelve. Statistics suggest girls seem to lose interest at that age. Adding robotics into classroom instruction may encourage them to pursue work in that field when they finish their education.”

Laing argues: “Great strides are being taken amongst educators to add robotics curriculum. However, the time to educate our current generation is fleeting. Robotics can prepare our children to not only serve this sector but others as well, and we must act, now.” Donald Mazzella is editorial director of Small Business Digest and affiliated websites and magazines.

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