We frequently receive requests from educational organizations wanting to partner with Yaskawa Motoman. One of the most requested needs and discussions is how to inspire students to take interest in a robotics/STEM career path. “Where are the robotics jobs?” “What are the skills needed?” “How do we recruit and engage the students?” The answer is twofold. The first is to investigate the potential for a workforce development relationship between each educational institution and its surrounding industrial marketplace. The second is to identify the best STEM robotics solution to align with the skill and certification/degree requirements the educational institution and industry are looking for.
What Does the STEM/Robotics Career Path Look Like Today?
K-16 STEM robotic education (curriculum, degrees and certification) is growing, as is STEM funding and the need for robotics skills in the manufacturing sector. According to the latest STEMconnector® study, 25 percent of all high school students are interested in STEM nationally and the growing demand will reach 8.65 million U.S. STEM jobs in the workforce by 2018.1 Yet the manufacturing sector faces a shortage of 600,000 STEM-skilled jobs, in spite of current economic conditions. In the robotics industry, a total of 22,591 robots valued at $1.39 billion were shipped to companies in North America in 2013, beating the previous record of 20,328 robots valued at $1.29 billion shipped in 2012.2
The Academic Life of a K-16 Robotics Student
In K-12 education, students are exposed to robotics as part of their STEM curriculum. Typically, early STEM instruction consists of robotics-aligned curriculum, including the history of robotics, basic robotic programming, design and building educational robot kits like VEX® and LEGO® products. In high school, career tech and post-secondary education, students learn in a “real-life” setting with industrial robotics classrooms or labs that blend traditional academic robotics curriculum with industry-recognized certification and technology.
Career Options in Robotics
Students most commonly enter the workforce as robotics technicians and robotics engineers. However, there are many other job opportunities, such as: application engineer, manufacturing assembly, programmer, quality control, software developer, support specialists and trainers.
The differences between robotics careers are based on the level of education. Robotics technicians usually earn a two-year associate degree, while robotics engineers need at least a bachelor's degree. Students often move on to graduate studies and professional engineering certification. Students can also participate in co-op and internship programs that provide on-the-job training, along with classroom instruction. For a much more comprehensive account of STEM careers, read the Brooking Institute’s report, Still Searching: Job Vacancies and STEM Skills3.
Robotics Job Duties and Expected Salaries
Robotics engineers, technicians and specialists typically work in a collaborative environment and are responsible for operating robots as well as researching, designing, creating, testing and troubleshooting problems.
Robotics engineers and technicians can often be found working in the electrical and electronics engineering fields. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics4, here’s a sampling of what we’ve found for a robotics technician:
Yaskawa Motoman is encouraged by the enthusiasm and interest we receive regarding career paths from our industrial partners and educational customers. There is a huge opportunity for students to pursue successful STEM careers. Hundreds of STEM degree programs, degrees and certifications are available. Manufacturing is looking to increase workforce development partnerships with education as the solution to fill their needs. Pursuing an educational career path of STEM education has enormous value and impact for not only a student’s career but also the U.S.
By Bob Graff, Senior Sales Manager, Education Market