Even as chairman and CEO of a company called Rockwell Automation, Blake Moret doesn’t want to hear about how robots are going to phase people out of manufacturing. To underscore its position on the issue, the Milwaukee-based outfit actually has launched a new “brand promise” that it calls “Exploring Human Possibility,” complete with a new program to encourage “young innovators” to join the manufacturing business.
“We came up with our new brand promise to underscore the importance of the human element even in automation,” Moret told Chief Executive. “While technology is important, it’s how people can interact and use technology that makes the difference in terms of being globally competitive. It’s the fundamentally human element of advanced manufacturing that we’re talking about.”
Noting the millions of U.S. manufacturing positions that are projected to go unfilled over the next decade, Moret said that addressing the gap “begins with attraction to the industry, and a lot of young people don’t initially think of manufacturing first. They’re intrigued by technology, but they don’t understand the implications of technology in modern manufacturing. We need to help them envision the cool things that ultimately can be made and that can improve the standard of living for millions of people.”
The “You Make It Challenge” is a new Rockwell Automation program with that aim. It’s seeking kids ages eight through 17 to share ways they would “make the world work better,” tapping into “their practical and technological creativity … to expand what is humanly possible in the space” for Rockwell Automation and the customers for its industrial-automation and -information equipment.
Winners will be judged on purpose, innovation, creativity and presentation of their ideas and be awarded prizes including time with a Rockwell Automation mentor to help them present their ideas to industry leaders at Automation Fair in Chicago, and a personal “Maker Space Kit” worth $7,500.
Regardless of talk these days of a short-term decline in U.S. manufacturing activity, Moret stressed that the American factory community needs to address the long-term employment gap more aggressively.
“Regardless of the macro conditions, we know there’s going to be a shortage of people with advanced manufacturing skills and interest in moving to manufacturing companies,” he said. “That’s the persistent threat to the industry that we have to address, and address early.”
In addition to programs such as the “You Make It Challenge,” Moret said, Rockwell Automation is boosting more efforts to promote STEM education for “future workers,” is participating in workforce-development expansion with Wisconsin colleges and universities and with the Business Roundtable’s Workforce Partnership Initiative, and is developing “additional education and hands-on experience – really, life-long learning – for employees. We have to maintain our commitment to investing in employees throughout what could be a 40-year career” in manufacturing.