Fig. 1

Rockwell Automation Looks to Veterans as the Future IoT Workforce

Nov. 16, 2017
Rockwell Automation’s Academy of Advanced Manufacturing trains retired U.S. veterans on how to operate and program advanced technology in the developing Industrial Internet of Things.

A “win-win” situation is a rare thing to see. In engineering, many decisions are made with a tolerance to ensure that the solution works, even if it isn’t a perfect fit. However, at the Automation Perspectives Event at the Rockwell Automation Fair, I saw a true win-win. The Academy of Advanced Manufacturing (AAM) is Rockwell’s answer to the skilled labor shortage. It pairs retired U.S. veterans with training in the advance automation tools to create the workforce of tomorrow.

The manufacturing sector in the U.S. is estimated to produce up to 3.5 million new jobs over the next decade, largely due to the increase in automation. The advances in automation technology are happening so quickly that companies are struggling to keep up with the incremental job demand. Add to this the fact that close to 2.5 million manufacturing workers set to retire by 2025, plus ongoing skill shortages, and up to two million of those new jobs could go unfilled.

In response, Rockwell developed the AAM based on its Engineering In Training program, which helped new hired engineers learn how to use Rockwell products. The 12-week program launched in August of this year. It exposed the veterans to new technology innovations that are being generated by the fast-paced Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). It combines classroom learning with hands-on laboratory experience. Veterans are trained in Rockwell’s facility in Mayfield Heights, Ohio for in-demand jobs in advanced manufacturing. All of the graduates have multiple job offers that significantly increase their previous salaries. 

“This program felt like it was made just for me,” said Travis Tolbert, a U.S. Navy veteran and academy graduate. “[By focusing] on controls and automation, which is something I’ve always wanted to do…The academy helped me take my military skills and understand how I could make them relevant for jobs outside of the Navy.” 

The company behind the talent search is Manpower Group. The global workforce solutions company helps organizations in sourcing, assessing, developing, and managing the talent. According to Ted Crandall, senior vice president of Control Products and Solutions, the talent pool size has significant potential growth.

Crandall noted that 200,000 veterans are set to retire. From that talent pool, Manpower has identified 25% as eligible candidates, meaning that there are 50,000 potential candidates.  Rockwell is looking to expand the 14 student pilot programs to 1,000 within the next year.

“Manufacturing employers in the United States are experiencing a significant gap between the skills they need and the skills people have,” said Becky Frankiewicz, president of Manpower Group North America. “Our solution was to look for people with adjacent skills — skills that are closely connected and can be adapted easily, developed and applied to new roles.

“Veterans share many skills that are relevant to manufacturing,” Frankiewicz continued, “including effective problem solving and a team work mindset. We’re helping servicemen and women earn more and stay employable for the long term while helping employers address their skills gap.”

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