By Keith Gushard
MEADVILLE — Maintaining local manufacturing jobs and having enough skilled people to fill them is why the RoboBOTS robot building program is so important, according to its backers.
Faced with an aging skilled work force, the area’s tooling and machining industry estimates it needs about 250 new skilled workers a year for the next decade.
The Northwestern Pennsylvania chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association, a tooling industry trade group, started the RoboBOTS program in 2006 as a creative way to attempt to attract students toward technical careers. It came about after the chapter’s then-president, Scott Hanaway, had seen it used in another area of the country and suggested it be tried by the local chapter.
Manufacturers both in Crawford County and nationally say the current work force is aging closer to retirement, creating a need not only for machinists, tool and die makers, electricians and welders, but mechanical and electrical engineers and computer engineers.
“If we want to continue to have a robust manufacturing base here, we need to fill the pipeline with workers,” said Brian Deane, coordinator of the RoboBOTS competition for the northwestern Pennsylvania chapter of the NTMA.