Student engineers of the future are learning crucial robotics skills to give them the edge for exciting career opportunities and fill an increasing national industry skills gap.
Year 12 and 13 students at Ron Dearing University Technical College (UTC) in Hull are working with a state-of-the-art FANUC robot training cell as part of their automation and control engineering course, understanding how automation, or robotics, is used by some of the region’s largest manufacturing companies.
The robot has been jointly funded by the Ofsted ‘Outstanding’-rated employer-led school and the UK’s leading shower manufacturer Kohler Mira, one of Ron Dearing UTC’s major partners.
The robot mirrors tasks which computer software maps out on screen and enables students to gain cutting edge, industry level specialist skills that will set them up for bright futures in an under-staffed sector.
Glenn Jensen, senior assistant principal and head of engineering at Ron Dearing UTC, said: “This state-of-the-art robot training cell is allowing students to experience first-hand what their jobs in automation could be like in the future.
“They can use an actual robot with real life programming to achieve that, mirroring innovative industry level control and movement and understanding what that will be like in the workplace.
“This is a prime example of how we’re adapting the curriculum to suit employer needs and help to address the national skills shortage in this area of industry.”
Employer partners of Ron Dearing UTC contribute financially to the pioneering school, playing a key role in developing the curriculum and set industry-standard projects for students to work on.
They also support students by providing careers information, advice and guidance, as well as offering work experience opportunities and often apprenticeships.
The employers are committed to equipping Ron Dearing UTC students with the skills they want to see in their future employees and to ensuring they are work-ready when they leave school.
Thanks to continued developments in technology, Kohler Mira has been at the forefront of the shower market for more than a century and has committed to taking on apprentices from Ron Dearing UTC in 2022.
Kohler Mira has also donated two additional robots to train students on how to fix and maintain them and also assist with programming skills, which will be brought into use in the near future to bolster learning opportunities.
Derek Atkinson, operations manager at Kohler Mira (Hull), based in Melton, East Yorkshire, said: “There is a clear and large skills gap in the local area in all aspects of mechanical, electrical and processing engineering, and we often struggle to fill those positions.
“If students already have those skills, it can only be beneficial to our business and that is testament to the fantastic partnership we have with Ron Dearing UTC.
“The vice-president of our business started his career as an apprentice and we wholeheartedly believe in offering these opportunities, which is why we’re delighted that Kohler Mira has committed to taking on apprentices from Ron Dearing UTC next year.
“Automation has enabled our business to grow and even bring business which was initially contracted out to China back to the UK. We’re using technology to safeguard and create jobs, and help us to work more efficiently as a business.”
Year 12 engineering student Mercy McFarlane, 16 (above), said the robotics equipment would open exciting opportunities for learning new skills.
She said: “Having these skills will give me a big advantage over other people when applying for jobs because I’ll have extra experience and knowledge.
“I would like a career in automation and programming, so having this in school is perfect. I’m looking forward to learning more and gaining new skills.”
Plans are also under way to offer use of the machinery to employer partners of the school that wish to use it for training their existing employees.
Fellow Year 12 engineering student Isaac Barton, 16, said: “It’s great to learn automation skills now and have a much higher chance of securing a job in the future.
“I’d really like an apprenticeship with Ron Dearing UTC’s employer partners. I like practical and hands-on learning and automation comes into that. It will be great to have skills that other people don’t have.”