CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A national robotics firm is partnering with the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing in South Charleston to offer a new training program it says will fill a key need in the local manufacturing economy.
Detroit-based FANUC Robotics, the world's largest robotics manufacturer, announced at a press conference Tuesday it is partnering with RCBI's Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center on a new Certified Education Robot Training (CERT) Program at the school.
The program will give local students hands-on training to learn how to operate and program FANUC robots, which are used in a wide variety of manufacturing settings, including food packaging, pharmaceutical and automobile applications.
Paul Aiello, FANUC's regional manager of education, said his company was on track to install 15,000 new robotic machines in manufacturing plants across the country this year.
But while companies are investing in the technology, he said employers are hard-pressed to find knowledgeable workers to handle it.
"The perception is that manufacturing is a dirty profession -- it's menial, repetitive tasks -- but we have robots to do that," he said. "Now we need technicians and operators and engineers to run that equipment."
The company's robotics training program is designed to fill that need.
"Schools are now teaching on the latest products that we're introducing to manufacturers to give those students the edge so that they come out of a facility like RCBI with the skills sets that manufacturers are looking for today," Aiello said.
RCBI Director Charlotte Weber said robotics and automation have helped make U.S. companies more efficient and more competitive in the global economy.
She said the key is to now make sure there are enough trained workers to operate and maintain all of this new automation.
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said local employers fear there is a skills gap in the field.
"When you talk to employers out there, there's a sense of concern in their voice, because they feel they have jobs but don't have the workforce to fill them," Capito said.