With trade conflicts, the COVID-19 pandemic, and ongoing supply chain and labor challenges, North American and European enterprises have considered reshoring or near-shoring operations to build resilience. However, a significant “education gap” exists in the skills needed for reshoring and automation to succeed, according to a global ABB survey.
“The world is constantly evolving—businesses are shifting existing structures and adopting new technologies to future-proof their operations for a variety of challenges and uncertainties, with robotic automation playing a key role,” said Sami Atiya, president of ABB Robotics & Discrete Automation.
“We need significant investment in continuous education to prepare our existing and future workforce to thrive in an age of robotics and automation, important not only to prepare for the widespread shifts we are seeing, but to create prosperous societies going forward,” he added.
ABB Robotics & Discrete Automation is a unit of Zurich-based ABB that provides robots, industrial automation, and digital services to industries including automotive, electronics, and logistics. The company said it has shipped more than 500,000 systems to customers of all sizes as it supports their transition to the connected and collaborative factory of the future. ABB Robotics employs more than 11,000 people at over 100 locations in more than 53 countries.
Execs expect more reshoring, surveys find
ABB conducted supply chain and education surveys this year. Its survey of business leaders revealed that 74% of European and 70% of U.S. businesses are planning to reshore or or near-shore operations in response to labor shortages, the need for a more sustainable global footprint, and global uncertainty.
The majority of these businesses viewed automation as the enabler of operational shifts, with 75% of European and 62% of U.S. businesses surveyed planning to invest in robotics and automation in the next three years, said ABB.
Despite reshoring and growing demand for automation, ABB said its 2022 global education survey found a significant gap in the education and training needed to ensure the skills necessary for work in increasingly connected and automated workplaces.
Of the global education professionals surveyed, 80% said they believe robotics and automation will shape the future of employment in the next 10 years, while only one in four education institutions currently use robots as part of their teaching programs.
ABB invests in education programs
To help bridge the skills gap, ABB has bolstered its global Robotics and Automation education program with new training centers, including its €100 million ($100.16 million U.S.) global innovation and training campus in Austria. The new site, along with other new regional training centers in the U.K., Berlin, and Brazil, expands ABB’s training facilities to over 40 sites globally.
The sites each year educate more than 30,000 students from schools, colleges, and universities, as well as apprentices and workers, said ABB. The company added that they complement its existing educational offering, which consists of software packages, its Wizard Easy programming, the RobotStudio and RobotStudio AR Viewer App.
ABB also offers hardware in the form of collaborative robot cells and application packages. Through more than 100 global partnerships with schools and universities, ABB generates curriculum materials with education providers to help educate future generations and prepare them for reshoring and the jobs of tomorrow.
“Change needs to happen now,” stated Atiya. “As companies turn to robotic automation to offset labor shortages, improve efficiency, and increase resilience, workers need the skillsets to use automation to perform their jobs and augment their own roles.”
“Businesses need to join forces, cooperating with educational institutions and governments to ensure that society is prepared for jobs of the future,” he added. “Only through this can we fully utilize flexible automation and unlock value from the ongoing re-industrialization.”
ABB offered more information on its educational offerings, examples of projects using its robots and software, and a whitepaper explaining how teaching automation can help shape tomorrow's workforce at its education portal page. It is also offering a webinar on “Narrowing the Skills Gap with ABB Robotics STEM Education” on Sept. 29.