Sunday, December 7, 2014

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto

Want One
Every time I see a Tesla driving down the road, I want one. They look great, go fast, are environmentally friendly (don't worry I am not giving up my gas lawn mower just yet :-), and the technology in these cars is cutting edge. I occasionally construct my order online and arrive at checkout, which is where I am brought back down to earth, then go outside and sit in my Prius. Some of the things I find interesting with this company is the process that is used to construct their vehicles and the importance of man and machine working together to make it happen.

 Image: CNET / CBS Interactive
I recently came across a Tech Republic article, which after reading I found the title to be a bit silly, but it caught my attention because of a podcast I listened to recently about robot automation. Basically the podcast was stating there are not enough skilled workers who can actually work on the robots to keep them running, and a few big companies were starting programs to train their people for these skilled positions. The "boring" reference in the article title was pointing out how the introduction of bots could increase the "drudgery" of the 9-5 job in some cases. The example was centered around the Amazon Kiva bots that are used in some of their US fulfillment centers, which Amazon recently has been discussing with the holiday season upon us. You can read the article for yourself and determine the message that the writer has intended, but for myself I tend to reflect on the discussion that has been going on for years about the ever changing careers that technology influences.

Skilled Workforce
We have been hearing and reading about the shortage of skilled workers for some time now and how the 21st Century Learner is going to need different skills for the modern workplace. With automation and jobs that require a different skill set, it is important we don't lose focus on the solid foundation needed for our students to be able to leave the K-12 and higher education system ready for the ever changing workplace, on the job training and new careers. The question remains are we preparing them for such a world? I came across this very interesting article about Toyota and the Bluegrass Community Technical College, who have partnered to create the AMT program. A statement that caught my attention was from Dennis Dio Parker, an assistant manager at Toyota, "Parker says high schools and colleges in the U.S. are failing to turn out graduates with the mix of technical expertise, problem-solving ability and communication skills that companies like Toyota needs." Technical fields may not be for every student, but shouldn't all students have the ability to communicate and problem solve? If our students simply master the 4 c's, they will be prepared to adapt to any situation including technologies influence on the world and careers.  

Jobs will continually change and become more technical. Some jobs may be eliminated, while new ones will take their place, creating different skill requirements. Gilbert Passin VP of Manufacturing for Tesla made a comment in Tesla Motors Part 2, "Robots are extremely good at repeatability and accuracy of motion, humans are more intelligent than robots therefore we need to use them where there is a lot of value for that intelligence." The future only has to be boring if that is the way we view it.