Education Gap in Automation? Businesses Are Taking Action

November 27, 2022 by Caitlin Nicholson

The use of automation and robotics is expected to increase as more companies nearshore their operations, pushing businesses to partner with educational establishments and provide training to prepare the workforce.

As the majority of European and US companies bring their operations closer to home in an effort to weather supply chain disruptions, the use of automation and robotics is expected to increase. While companies look towards greater use of these technologies, education is slow to catch up, causing concerns for an underprepared and desperately-needed workforce. Rather than relying on educational institutions to catch up with the shifting landscape, the responsibility to train future employees has fallen on businesses.


companies to help with education gap and skills gap

Rather than relying on educational institutions, businesses have taken up the responsibility of training future employees. Image used courtesy of Canva


We Asked You! 

We asked over a thousand of our engineering audience of the top pressing challenges faced in current work. According to our Engineering Survey results for 2022, 571 next gen and 515 career pro engineers working primarily in control systems agreed that these top challenges are:

  1. staying on schedule (time to market) 

  2. staying on budget

  3. not enough engineers on staff

  4. engineering staff lacking needed skills 


ABB Survey Nearshoring and Reshoring

Both US and European companies look towards robotics and automation as they bring their businesses closer to home. Image used courtesy of ABB


Reshoring, Nearshoring, and Shifts in Automation

Similarly, ABB came out with a survey early in September addressing the shift in companies and the concern for the lack of trained workforce to make this shift feasible. 

Reaching out to business leaders in the US and Europe, ABB found that 74% of European businesses and 70% of US businesses are planning to reshore and/or nearshore their operations with the intent of better withstanding disruption to the supply chain and increasing sustainability. 

Of those surveyed, it was found that 75% of European businesses and 62% of US businesses are turning to robotics and automation over the next three years to make this shift possible.  

Although companies plan to utilize robotics and automation more heavily, educational institutions are slow to catch up—only 25% of educational institutions include robotics in their curriculum.

ABB in Education

How do we prepare our younger generations and future workforce for the future of automation if provided education isn't matching up with the needed workforce? 

According to ABB, the responsibility of preparing the future workforce falls in the hands of companies, claiming that companies need to partner with educational institutions and governments. 

To set an example, ABB continues to expand its Robotics and Automation program globally. These sites aim to fill educational gaps in the field of robotics and automation among students by partnering with educational institutions.

Beckhoff Automation Internships and Training

Through Beckhoff’s work-integrated study program, nearly 200 students have successfully landed careers at their company upon graduation. Image used courtesy of Beckhoff


Businesses Partnering with Education

With rising concerns of workers and recent graduates not being trained well enough, ABB is not the only company providing educational and training opportunities for those starting out in the field. In the past several months alone, big name businesses including Endress+Hauser and Emerson have announced their plans to educate and inspire the future workforce via training, education, and integrated learning type programs. 

At the end of September, Festo Didactic and SICK  teamed up to provide a robotic safety curriculum to higher education institutions across the US. Beckhoff Automation is another example, providing work-integrated study for those in bachelor’s programs focused on industrial engineering and automation (even hiring many students who have successfully completed their program).


Amatrol training system at Automation Fair 2022

A training system from Amatrol, seen at last week's Automation Fair.


Companies Focused on Education

Businesses with a sole focus on providing training in schools are also increasingly important. Amatrol, for instance, is a leading technical education provider for high schoolers and beyond, providing everything from instructional content to hands-on learning with a equipment ranging from tabletop smart factories to robotics.

ATC is another organization with an education-focused mission, distributing equipment, software, and curriculm for educational and training purposes. Just this last week, Control Automation's very own Director of Engineering Content, David Peterson, had the opportunity to visit the mechatronics lab at Portland College to help install and commission their two new UR3 cobots from ATC.


Portland Community College Mechatronics Lab with UR3 Cobot from ATC

Instructor Don Erickson from Portland College's OMIC Training Center in Oregon operates a brand-new UR3 cobot from ATC.

Forging the Future Workforce

As more companies seek to reshore and nearshore their operations, the way students and workers are trained requires a greater focus on robotics and automation to bridge the gap in education and skills. Unfortunately, education is often slow to catch up with modern workforce needs, and as such, the role of businesses to partner with educational establishments and train the future workforce is increasingly important.