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Fresh initiatives continue to be introduced to bridge the gap between manufacturers that need shopfloor talent and young people who, if taught the proper skills, would appreciate a career in manufacturing. The most promising of these initiatives focus on imparting knowledge that will enable new hires to hit the ground running in today’s advanced manufacturing facilities without significant hand-holding or follow-up training.
One example I recently learned about is the new Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing Technology Education Collaborative (RAMTEC). Located at the Tri-Rivers Career Center in Marion, Ohio, RAMTEC brings together educators, area manufacturers and equipment builders, offering certified training programs whereby students get hands-on experience with the same type of sophisticated equipment they’ll encounter on the job. The RAMTEC facility was unveiled in September, and I was invited by FANUC, one of the program’s partners, to attend the grand opening and learn more.
Tri-Rivers’ Superintendent Charles Speelman spearheaded the RAMTEC project. Historically, career centers, technical colleges and four-year colleges have provided parts of the answer to the skills-gap problem, he says. RAMTEC, Mr. Speelman contends, offers a complete solution through the alliance of Tri-Rivers, Marion Technical College and The Ohio State University at Marion, in addition to partnerships with local manufacturers such as Honda of America and equipment OEMs including FANUC, Yaskawa Motoman and Lincoln Electric.
RAMTEC provides training programs to high school and adult students for industrial maintenance, mechatronics, CNC programming, robotics programming and robotics welding. Students receive the same comprehensive training that the equipment OEMs offer their manufacturing customers. Classes are run by RAMTEC staff members who have been trained by the OEMs. Training typically begins with computer software that simulates the functions of controls and equipment. Students then can work directly with the multiple robots, machine tools and welding equipment found on RAMTEC’s mock shop floor.
The collaborative RAMTEC training initiative certainly seems to pave a clear path for students looking to secure a manufacturing career right out of high school. However, there’s another aspect of the RAMTEC model that’s just as valuable. Students are better able to determine if their best option is to 1) get a technical certification, 2) leverage the training to obtain an associate’s degree in engineering technology at Marion Technical College or 3) take advantage of Ohio State Marion’s two-year engineering program with the goal of eventually receiving a bachelor’s degree. And if the choice is to use RAMTEC training as a stepping stone to secondary education, the resulting engineer will have a better understanding of manufacturing’s current capabilities and limitations, the upshot of which will be a new-product designer that has a keener eye toward manufacturability.
See this blog entry for a few photos taken during the grand opening.