Earlier this year the UK’s first Level 3 vocational qualification in robotics and automation was launched by EAL. Why was this a big step? Are robotic qualifications among staff an essential requirement for businesses that wish to utilise the new technology?
We’ve previously discussed the way that our working lives might potentially be changed by robotics and how businesses and individuals need to prepare and be willing to adapt. We mentioned the opportunities that could open up in the future too. To make the most of these, continual learning should become second nature for everyone, but for those particularly keen to work in this flourishing sector, earlier and more formalised study will become increasingly important.
The new EAL qualification creates an interesting stage in that process, particularly for the job seekers of tomorrow who are keen to embrace and work with the developing world of robotics. It has filled a notable gap, being the first equivalent to a UK A level for the robotics industry. With EAL leading the way, we can expect other awarding bodies to introduce similar qualifications focused on the industry in the years to come.
Previously evidence of robotics-related skills could only be earned and demonstrated as part of a more general engineering apprenticeship or by taking a mix of related A level subjects, such as biotechnology, cognitive science and electronics.
From a learner’s point of view, although by no means replacing the other currently available pathways into the industry, this new option is a great step forward. The new qualification allows young people post GCSE stage (16+) to demonstrate their interest and their capability in the sector they wish to pursue as their career by earning a specific, relevant qualification. It will also enable older learners already working in the industry who want an accurate endorsement of their skills to earn a relevant certificate.
At higher educational levels, robotics degrees have become far more common and are offered by a range of institutions, so we are seeing and will continue to see more and more graduates with these highly relevant qualifications entering the jobs market.
At the lower stages, with EAL’s certificate newly introduced, we will not see an influx of job applicants brandishing a level 3 or equivalent robotics certificate for a while yet. So what are employers basing their choice on in the meantime?
Tharsus’ Head of HR Kerry Patterson says;
“What we are looking for will, of course, vary with the role in question. When we are looking for engineers the qualification and technical capability is obviously important, but experience and knowledge of robotics and automation should be evident and is very desirable.
“When we’re looking at younger applicants, whether engineering apprentices or graduates, relevant qualifications can be minimal. One thing we always look at it is the motivation behind the person’s career choice in engineering. We’ve found that many people almost stumble onto their chosen career path because a relative did or because they think it’s something they might enjoy. We want to find people who are committed on a deeper level, so those who are really passionate about what they want to do. Simple indications of those who will excel in the job include a fascination for tinkering with appliances, so say if the candidate’s toaster broke, would they try to fix it or just get a new one?
“Essentially my advice would be, if you’re sure this is what you want to do and you believe it’s where your talents lie, take every opportunity to learn, explore and gain relevant skills and knowledge, whether this is part of a formal qualification or not.
“Perhaps it would be worth looking out for a summer placement with a relevant company around university or college. We occasionally offer opportunities like this on our website, so keep an eye on our careers page.”
As we see more robotics qualifications both on offer and being completed, we will start to see more qualified individuals in the job market. So from a business owner’s point of view is it essential to have qualified people on board to embrace robotics in your business?
While it’s not actually essential, it can be beneficial depending on a range of factors, including your plans and ambitions. It’s important to consider all the advantages and disadvantages.
Someone who has studied robotics and qualified in robotics is clearly interested in robotics. They are likely to be an advocate for the introduction and extension of robotic technology, a valuable ally if this is a new direction that you want to take your company in. As we move towards Industry 4.0, one of the key assets to any company will be an individual who is keen to keep on top of emerging technologies and advancements and can act as an adviser for the rest of the business. Whilst this could be anyone, a person who is qualified in robotics clearly has that interest already and will already know which websites to follow and which companies and people to watch to keep up to date with news.
If you’re interested in establishing your own dedicated robotics management and development hub, then qualifications may become even more desirable. If qualified candidates do not already have the skills to manage robotic systems, it probably won’t take much to bring them up to speed. They are likely to have already covered some complex aspects of automated systems and their care, particularly at degree level.
With all this said, in a new and still emerging industry, hiring robotics specialists can be a mine field and while a qualification can indicate a lot about the holder’s interests and preferred study area, they will not automatically identify a highly capable engineer in terms of practical experience. Starting a dedicated robotics function from scratch is the most difficult and expensive option as, without established, senior staff members to guide colleagues, all must learn together, requiring extensive formal training and a need to allow for errors as the team gets up to speed.
Alternatively, if you want the best, most enthusiastic partners on your project without the time consuming pressures of assembling the perfect team in house, you could talk to us.
At Tharsus we offer the complete package. With our product design, development and manufacturing capabilities, we can help you identify where you might benefit from robotic and machine technologies, design an appropriate solution, construct a prototype and continually test, develop and refine the resulting product on-site at our own manufacturing facility.
Our team has a sought after combination of experience, skill and connections, maintaining close contact with many industry leaders. Partnering with Tharsus provides companies with a ready-made, tailored hub which can act as the perfect guide to exploring robotic and machine technologies. If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help you, get in touch with us today.
If you’re interested in a career in robotics and automation and want to work with us, check out our current opportunities here.
If you enjoyed this article, you may be interested in our post about how Industry 4.0 could affect your business.