Deciding what to do after high school has become more complex. There are a lot of career choices and a variety of paths on how to get there. Increasingly training that leads directly to employment has become more popular and is attracting students right out of high school.
On community, Greenville, S.C., which has seen an increase in advanced manufacturing, is offering programs that let students train on the machines that are currently being used at area employers thus offering a fast track to career development.
“Greenville is a hot spot for robots, so having robot training on a resume is helpful,” explains Alexis Trumper who is the Kuka College Manager for Kuka Robotics. “With automation on the rise, students need to know how to operate these machines.”
One of the reasons for the area’s growth is BMW. Since 1992 the company has invested $7.8 billion and has created over 8,000 jobs on its Spartanburg campus. Add to that the suppliers required to supply and support the campus, and BMW provides jobs for over 30,000, according to the Greenville Area Development Corp. Part of that job creation is around automation as the company recently purchased 3,000 robots from KUKA. And suppliers are buying these robots as well, so training will go a long way toward helping students qualify for area jobs.
In addition to the growth in the auto sector, the aerospace sector is increasing in the area, further pushing the need for workers skilled in automation. And ensuring that students learn the machines that are on the production floor is especially important. For that reason, robot manufacturer KUKA has supplied machines to the Center for Manufacturing. Innovation (CMI), a program of Greenville Technical College
“As manufacturing industries, such as automotive and aerospace, continue to grow in the Southeast, technical and robotics training will only become more prevalent,” said Joe Gemma, chief regional officer at Kuka USA, said in a release. “We’re excited to partner with Greenville Technical College to help students and businesses alike improve their knowledge with our advanced robots and in-depth training.”
Attracting students to the industry has become a lot easier with all of these opportunities, says Rodney Jones, academic director at Greenville Tech Center.
“In the past, the age range of our students was 23 to 58, but now we are seeing kids right out of high school come into the program,” said Jones. He explains that the attraction is that students know they can get good jobs with this training. While the curriculum is tough and Jones alters courses to ensure that the students are up to the challenge, many students enjoy the program and are successful at it. Part of the success is that Jones hires teachers who have experience in the field. And he has a long background in the field so understands the challenges and opportunities.
Jones also works closely with his advisory board of industry experts so they are aware of industry trends and needs.
Working with those in the industry, such as KUKA, is a further way to ensure students success on the job. “We teach the exact skills that will be applied in the manufacturing cell,” says Trumper. Training on hardware and software, in ready-to-use cells, offers a hands-on learning experience. Students can also learn about mobility, Industry 4.0 and human-robot collaboration. Human-robot collaboration, in the form of collaborative robots, is poised to grow at a rate of 57% according to Research and Markets.
In addition to the training program offered by Greenville Technical College at CMI, the location also houses advanced manufacturing research space for faculty and staff of Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research Greenville. Part of the training includes experiential learning options with companies such as Michelin, Rexroth-Bosch, Bausch and Lomb and BMW.
Additionally, Greenville Technical College and Clemson University are undertaking projects for the national Manufacturing USA® Institute, Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing. With $80 million in funding from the Department of Defense and 200 members, ARM is focused on advancing innovation and workforce initiatives to grow U.S. manufacturing by making robots more accessible to small and medium-sized businesses.
As robots continue to become an integral part of the manufacturing process, students will continue to seek training opportunities and Greenville Technical College, along with KUKA, is prepared to accommodate the region's future needs.