Through outreach initiatives such as the Open House event (2-4 November 2022, Coventry) and its partnership with WorldSkills UK, FANUC UK aims to inspire the next generation of innovators and programmers by demonstrating what the robotics engineering profession really entails.
The robotics engineering industry needs to act now to address the widening skills gap within the sector by nurturing the next generation of talent, says industrial automation innovator FANUC UK.
It’s no secret that engineering and manufacturing in the UK are grappling with a serious skill shortage problem. The Institute of Engineering and Technology’s annual skills survey highlighted the persistent shortage of engineering skills over the past 15 years. And now that situation is exacerbated by the rapid adoption of digital technology as well as the imminent retirement of the aging workforce, not to mention Brexit and the pandemic.
All fields of engineering are struggling to attract new talent but in robotics engineering, the situation is exacerbated by the boom in the sector after the pandemic. The latest Global Robotics Report published by the International Federation of Robotics this month shows that in 2021 an all-time high of 517,385 new industrial robots were installed in factories worldwide, and annual robot installations globally more than doubled between 2015 and 2015 2021.
Bridging the skills gap
For the robotics industry to keep up with the demand and continue to push forward with innovation, it urgently needs more people who are able to design, build, program and maintain these complex systems, as well as teach these topics. This requires a variety of skills – in addition to traditional engineering, digital software and skills in areas such as artificial intelligence, are becoming increasingly important. Without these, market growth and innovation will be stifled. A healthy talent pipeline provides capabilities for productivity growth at the company, industry, and national levels.
“The skill shortage problem in robotics engineering is a huge concern and it is not going away – it will only get worse as the pace of digitalization accelerates. The industry cannot sit around waiting for policy makers to take action; we need to take matters into our own hands. This means engaging with schools, colleges and universities to inspire young people and get them excited about jobs in engineering and automation,” says Tom Bowchier, Managing Director of FANUC UK.
The robotics industry has historically enjoyed a high degree of cooperation and knowledge transfer with universities and research institutions. However, the image of robotics as a career option is still very low among young people. Many robots are unaware that they even exist as a career path – and the lack of a pre-GCSE-level curriculum doesn’t help attract kids interested in engineering early on.
Another sticking point was the lack of diversity. Engineering is the most male-dominated field in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Science) and this gender gap starts with a lower intake of STEM subjects in school – in a 2019 government study, girls made up only 14% of students who plan to study engineering at the level .
While government and policy makers acknowledge that this is a problem, industry-led initiatives provide a faster path to changing perceptions and motivating young people about engineering as a career choice.
WorldSkills UK Partnership
FANUC is strongly committed to supporting the development of the next generation of robotics engineers and is a global industrial partner of WorldSkills. WorldSkills supports young people around the world through competition, assessment and standards-based training. Four British teams made it to this year’s National Industrial Robotics Final. The winning team will then represent the UK on the international stage, competing against winning teams from other countries.
At the FANUC Open House event, held at its headquarters in Coventry from 2-4 NovemberAnd the Visitors will have the opportunity to compete their skills at this year’s showdown and finalists in a series of hands-on robotics challenges, to see if they have what it takes to match the UK’s best young talent.
For World Skills UK Industrial Robotics 2021 Gold Medal Winner Louie Heath who with partner Brennan Wilson forms the “2 Dudes 1 Robot” team, there are significant benefits for young people from participating. “The World Skills UK Final was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life,” he said enthusiastically. “Announcing our names as gold medal winners was the most exciting – and comforting – feeling I have ever had. I wish I could do it all again!”
Boucher says: “FANUC UK is proud to partner with WorldSkills UK in jointly encouraging and inspiring emerging robotics developers and programmers through the Industrial Robotics Competition. Supporting the development of the next generation is fundamental to the continued growth of the robotics sector in the UK and Ireland and to bridge the current automation gap.”
Rachel Kenning is an engineer at FANUC UK and previously served on the judging panel. She says, “The WorldSkills UK Industrial Robotics Program is a truly inspiring and fun experience for those who participate in it. It gives them insight into what is possible with robotics and shows them that there is an entire industry and career path out there that they might not have otherwise been exposed to. Most importantly, it knows Young people say robots can be exciting; it’s always fun watching robots in action—especially when you’re the one who programmed them.”
To register your interest in attending the FANUC Annual Open House, 2-4 November 2022, Ansty Park, Coventry, go to https://ukopenhouse.fanuc.eu
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