The Eastern Kentucky Advanced Manufacturing Institute, or eKAMI, today announced the opening of a new Robotics Center that will offer hands-on training with robots that are used daily in factories and logistics facilities around the world. The Paintsville, Ky.-based institute, which is a model of workforce retraining, will include mobile robots and fixed robot arms from major vendors.
“We are excited to open this new chapter in the eKAMI story,” said Kathy Walker, founder and CEO of eKAMI. “This expansion provides additional cutting-edge skills, which are in high demand by employers. To deploy automation, more companies are looking for individuals with a basic understanding of robotics. eKAMI will be able to assist with this transition by providing a new workforce skilled in this area.”
A shortage of skilled labor in U.S. manufacturing could leave as many as 2.1 million jobs unfilled, according to Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute. This in turn could cost the U.S. economy $1 trillion, said the study.
Programs like that of eKAMI have been nationally recognized for addressing the skills gap by providing students with training in areas that employers need. While enrolled in the program, eKAMI students will earn national credentials from the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS).
eKAMI offers accelerated training
Founded in 2017, eKAMI said its mission is to prepare people for 21st century jobs in advanced manufacturing, automation, and robotics. Students train on Haas CNC (computer numerical control) equipment, learning to program, set up, and operate machines that produce parts for industries including aerospace, medical, defense, and automotive. The expanded coursework provides technical skills training in robotic programming and various collaborative robotic tasks such as machine tending.
The 40,000 square-foot workforce training facility offers an accelerated five-month program for adults and a 10-month program for young adults.
The Robotics Center has the support of many companies that operate in the robotics and automation space, with many of them providing robots, software, services, and accessories. Sponsors and supporters of the new center include:
“We’re excited about our robotics contribution to eKAMI’s curriculum, and we’re excited to build on these efforts in a way that can solve the skilled labor shortage at scale and enable every U.S. manufacturer to easily deploy automation.” said Ben Gibbs, CEO of READY Robotics.
READY, an early supporter of eKAMI’s efforts to add robotics to its curriculum, said it has already worked with three of the class cohorts taking them from zero robot knowledge to doing “lights-out” production runs using the robots.
Kentucky looks to a robot renaissance
“Our students were already in high demand by employers due to their advanced training in CNC Machining,” said Walker. “Adding robotics to the curriculum is the natural next step in our goal of developing the skills needed to attract more manufacturers to eastern Kentucky.”
Many eKAMI students have already been hired as robot technicians by firms such as Heartland Automation and AutoGuide Mobile Robots.
In March, eKAMI received $3 million for a second training facility to expand training offerings to the East Kentucky Correctional Complex.
On Friday, June 4, the new Robotics Center will officially open with a celebration that will be attended by invited representatives from both industry and government. Instructors and students will demonstrate how each robot operates and how they can be used in different environments from manufacturing to logistics.
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