Preparing an Industry 4.0 workforce for the manufacturing sector

Posted By: Greg Surtman, Workforce Development Strategist, Tooling U-SME on August 14, 2019

Greg Surtman, Workforce Education Specialist, Tooling U-SME

The need to advance workforce education for Industry 4.0 related technology was at the forefront of this year’s National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers’ (NCATC) Summer Workshop, held at Oakland Community College (OCC) in Auburn Hills, Michigan. As one of two new board directors for NCATC, I had the opportunity – along with representatives from some 75 community colleges and industry partners – to attend the workshop, entitled “Empowering Innovation: Equipping our Workforce for Industry 4.0.”

Keynote speaker Tom Kelly, executive director/CEO of Automation Alley, brought urgency to the table by quoting the World Economic Forum statement that 65 percent of primary school students will be doing jobs that do not exist today. That brings us to the question: How do we prepare this future labor market for a reality that does not yet exist?

Kelly shared the global validation that Industry 4.0-related technology is moving fast, and China is leading the charge. For the United States to advance, he said we must adopt a cultural change in the workplace, allowing for industry and education partnerships that can move the gauge forward on upskilling our manufacturing workforce. Kelly added that utilizing formal training programs for continuous improvement and constant learning is the best way to keep up with the ever-changing technology.

While attending the workshop, I had the privilege of visiting FANUC, America, a leading supplier of robots, CNC systems, and factory automation. Of course the immediate question people have about robots is, “Don’t they take away jobs from humans?” Tooling U-SME and FANUC know that isn’t the case based on some of the following points:

  • Robots are taking over duties that humans no longer need to do, such as repetitive tasks, backbreaking labor, and mundane and hazardous jobs
  • Automating some repetitive manual labor pushes the need for skills development into areas such as implementing installations, operating machines, and performing maintenance and programming, as well as the more intellectual, technical side of manufacturing—in other words, Industry 4.0, which typically comes with greater pay
  • Robots increase productivity and profit with zero downtime (ZDT)
  • Training and certifications for high-tech manufacturing jobs are readily available at community colleges, career technical centers and at FANUC itself, to name just a few locations
  • Robots actually increase opportunities for higher-level, meaningful jobs with better pay

As a country, we need to adapt to this new reality and challenge our traditional thinking.

On the second day of the workshop, we visited the Engineering, Manufacturing, & Industrial Technology (EMIT) facility for advanced manufacturing training at OCC. We toured this state-of-the-art robotics lab and saw programs in machine tool technology, welding and fabrication, and robotics and automation. Outfitted with the newest FANUC robots, this is a clean environment, conducive to safety and training.

Attended by college and high school leaders, industry experts, and workforce policy influencers, the NCATC Summer Workshop brought together education, industry and community – a great and effective way to tackle the ongoing skills gap in manufacturing.

To learn how we can collaborate with workforce development education providers and manufacturers to design a program that builds your talent pipeline, reach out to us toolingu.com or 866.706.8665.



Tags: "advanced manufacturing", "Automation Alley", "FANUC America", "Industry 4.0 Related Technology", jobs, "National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers", NCATC, "Oakland Community College", OCC, robotics, robots, STEM, "World Economic Forum"