Partners praise robotics center project, stress need

News Release Date: 
04.10.12

Published in The Marion Star
April 10, 2012
Written by Kurt Moore

MARION - Partners in a proposed robotics training center have announced what they said is a chance to fill a need in the local job market.

Educational and industrial representatives spoke at a luncheon Monday that served as the official announcement of the project.

The center, to be housed at Tri-Rivers Career Center on Marion's east side on Ohio 95, will train people to work as technicians and engineers familiar with the use of robotics and associated industrial automation. Tri-Rivers Superintendent Chuck Speelman said he hopes to break ground within six weeks and expects construction to be completed by September.

"We are attempting to move at the speed of business," Speelman said.

"We were on the right track, but we were moving at a snail's pace," he said. "What we're hoping to do now is to get out of the way to allow some of the work, some of the opportunities for our young people to go forward."

The center is a collaboration between Tri-Rivers, Marion Technical College and The Ohio State University at Marion. Potential industrial partners include RobotWorx, Honda, U.S. Yachiyo and Fanuc Robotics, though Speelman said no company so far has been asked to make a "firm commitment."

Industries have agreed to donate about $400,000 worth of equipment and supplies. Speelman said construction costs will be covered by more than $1 million worth of upcoming cuts that will be made as the school attempts to realign its programs to fit what's needed by area employers.

Discussions on building the center started after RobotWorx, which builds and sells industrial robots, pitched the need for more trained workers. Other industries in the area including Honda, which operates a plant in Marysville, and Fanuc Robotics agreed Monday, as their representatives spoke about an expected shortage of skilled workers now and in the future.

Fanuc representative Paul Aiello spoke about what is expected to be a shortage of 67 percent of skilled workers needed by all U.S. manufacturers. That jumps to 82 percent when discussing the production workforce.

Honda tech training administrator Mark Schmid said the company lost many skilled workers through a voluntary buyout. That led to replacing experienced technicians with others with little experience and knowledge, leading Honda to strengthen its training programs.

"Our goal is to someday have all this training rolled into a two-year degree," he said.

All three educational institutions are developing curriculum that will be taught at the center. It will expand on a local interest in robotics that led to programs within five area schools and Marion becoming the site of the annual National Robotics Challenge to be held Thursday through Saturday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

"Collaboration has always been the key around here," said Tri-Rivers robotics instructor Ritch Ramey, who operates the satellite program at Marion Technical College's Center for Workforce Development.

Ohio State at Marion Dean Greg Rose spoke about how this is a continuation of Marion's rich industrial past, bringing it up to the "new 21st century level."

Reporter Kurt Moore: 740-375-5151 or kdmoore@marionstar.com