Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Robotics Corridor

I keep a daily eye on the posts at TECHburgher, but something else usually comes up and pushes some relevant information back into the blog queue. Since the usual blog fodder is scarce today and workforce development is a recent theme obsession, I'll make good on some recent reading about the Robotics Corridor:

Building, installing and maintaining these rapidly advancing systems will require technologists who not only are computer literate, but also are trained to be lifelong learners, [said Robin Shoop, director of Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy and director of the Robotics Corridor project]. To that end, the [Robotics Corridor] received input from 25 area industries about the types of technical and learning skills that needed to be incorporated into the new degree program.

Credits from the associate degree program are transferrable to four-year bachelor’s degree programs in electrical, computer and manufacturing engineering. The University of Pittsburgh, Robert Morris University, Youngstown State University and the Community College of Allegheny County are among the partners who have developed the Robotics Engineering Technology associate degree.

I'll start with what I like about the initiative, the geographic scope. Pittsburgh and Youngstown are becoming increasingly intertwined. Imagine Greater Pittsburgh includes Mahoning County and the Ryan-Altmire Tech Belt collaboration seems to be minus an analgous political partner in Cleveland. Somewhere between Akron and Youngstown is where Cleveland's pull gives way to Pittsburgh's, which is surprising to me. I suspect that Cleveland Plus, as currently envisioned, is dead because of the unwillingness to cross state borders.

What bothers me is the industry-centric approach to workforce development. Investment in human capital should be labor-centric. Local employment opportunities should be considered, but I would also survey business leaders around the world. I'm supportive of the Robotics Corridor, but interested students should be aware of jobs wherever they may be. And if there is a burgeoning demand for talent outside of Greater Pittsburgh, then local higher education should be able to help students learn what they need in order to gain access to that growing market.

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