Siemens is Helping Educators Teach Industry 4.0 Skills

Siemens Is Helping Educators Teach Industry 4.0 Skills

March 31, 2022
The company provides comprehensive programs based on technology that is currently installed at plants across the globe.

If it were just the case of manufacturers finding talent, that would be one matter. However, it's locating talent that has the skills to work in plants that have been changing at an exponential rate due to digitalization, that keeps them awake at night. 

A tactic that many companies are using to address this skill shortage is to partner with educational institutions. One company, Siemens, is jumping into the education market in a big way. They are providing a robust training system based on technology that is currently installed at plants across the globe.

Through the Siemens Automation Cooperates with Education (SCE) program, the company offers a curriculum for schools, trains instructors and places its products in educational institutions. The program offers a comprehensive approach to 4.0 automation knowledge.

“Our strategy has been to put our products in schools so that students can learn on the most up-to-date machinery,” explains Amanda Beaton, U.S. Program Manager for SCE. “For example, the programmable logic controller (PLC), the brain of the plant, that we provide to high schools, community colleges and other educational institutions is the same that is used on the plant floor. The curriculum was developed using our global industry experience.”

The goal of this is twofold; capture students’ interest and teach the needed skills. Learning through experience is a way to get students interested in the field, and this method offers companies a benefit as well. “If students are learning on the exact machines before they enter the company the onboarding process goes much quicker as they adapt to the specific needs of the company,” Beaton says.

The training program was designed to be easily accessible and flexible so it could meet the needs of students as well as instructors. Everything is available through an information portal. There is material for in-classroom instruction and also modules for individual study. To enhance learning industrial software is available for practical exercises. For instructors, there are specific courses and partnerships with other educators, such as producers of learning systems and WorldSkills.

“We offer a comprehensive approach as we know it’s hard for instructors to have the time to learn or have access to the most current technology,” says Beaton. As some people like to learn in person, on-site three- or five-day training is offered to instructors and is the same training that customers receive.

Digital Badges

One aspect of the program that has caught on is the awarding of certificates or digital badges. “I have seen digital badges as a type of recognition grow over the 10 years that I have been working on this program,” notes Beaton. “While the U.S. program was based on the one in Germany, in the U.S. badges are more popular. Five years ago, there wasn’t a huge demand for these credentials and parents weren’t steering children in this direction, nor were the schools, but now industry wants them, and parents and students are seeing the value. Now it’s a cool thing to have badges.”

Beaton points to a variety of reasons for the changes. One is the financial structure of education in which students borrow a great deal of money for a four-year education, and many don’t have a specific career path. “More parents and students are realizing that traditional college might not be the path for everyone and have expanded their view of education.” And industry has seized this shift in education to reach further such as middle school, to attract students to STEM-based careers.

Feedback from schools using the SEC program, and other training, is that companies are so anxious to hire these students that often they are hired before they can even complete the program. “Salaries are good for mechatronics technicians and first-line maintenance roles, and instructors have told me they have 100% job placement,” says Beaton. The SCE program also offers internships and jobs in the training portal.

“We are happy to be involved in training students for work in manufacturing, whatever company they join,” says Beaton. “Manufacturing has an exciting story to tell and offers a rewarding career path.”

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