Did you know that 3D Printing technology has come so far that it can now design and create human tissue? That the use of nanotechnology is giving properties to clothing to make them feel warmer or cooler? Or that the concept of augmented reality has wide spread manufacturing potential?
These are all examples of advanced manufacturing technology which is dependent on the use of cutting edge materials and emerging capabilities as well as established principles in physical and biological sciences. Automation, computation, software, networking and sensing are combined to manufacture new products or increase usefulness and effectiveness of existing technology.
In Canada, over 77,300 companies are involved in the advanced manufacturing sector and according to the Government of Canadaís Report from Canadaís Economic Strategy Tables: Advanced Manufacturing; the industry is poised to bring in around $1 trillion in sales by 2031, with over $540 billion in exports. Projections for employment are also predicted to rise.
The report also outlined a number of barriers that may stand in the way of Canadaís goals to increase advanced manufacturing sales and exports including increasing global competition, low availability of skilled and trained workers and uneven adoption of emerging technology. Colleges and institutes have a unique relationship with leading industries, are able to adapt and grow along with changes in technology and are poised to demolish those barriers by supplying the workforce with qualified personnel.
Puneet Kaur Johal is currently enrolled in a Chemical Engineering Technology program. She says, ìcolleges focus on a variety of important things. They offer great hands on experience. They have latest instrumentation in labs that students would be using while working in industries. Students are encouraged to select and use current technologies in chemical engineering tasks and projects. Students are marked on the accuracy and precision of their results, so that gives students a sense of how important it is to get good results and perform experiments right by following the procedure, with correct techniques and in a limited amount of time, therefore, teaching them that time and accuracy is money for industries, and that companies would want to hire someone who has a sense of these things. They are trained to perform all work in compliance with relevant regulations, standards and guidelines. Graduates are able to solve complex problems and perform tasks by applying principles of chemistry, mathematics, physics and chemical engineering.î
Educational facilities across Canada offer over 380 programs related to advanced manufacturing, consisting of diploma, certificate, degree, and post-graduate programs.
There are three main components of the advanced manufacturing sector including robotics and automation, transportation and engineering.
The field of robotics, or automation, is advancing at such a rapid pace and Canadian robotics technology is utilized all over the worldÖ and beyond.
Andrew Van-Martin, Automation Specialist – BID Group of Companies says, ìSome of the most recognizable parts on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station are the Canadarms 1 and 2. I love this particular example because as a kid I always thought it was so cool that Canada had built a part of something that was in space and seeing the videos of the arms in action always made me feel proud to be a Canadian. Our youth getting excited about science and robotics as a career when they are young means Canada will be able to continue being on the forefront of the mechatronics and robotics sector.î
Canadaís colleges and institutes are globally recognized for their advanced manufacturing educational courses.
Jagvir Singh Sandhu is an international student from Punjab, India. He is currently enrolled in an Aerospace Manufacturing Engineering Technician program. He says, ìI never had a chance of being exposed to something which would enhance my practical knowledge, instead of just theoretical knowledge. I saw aerospace manufacturing technology, the new program that Centennial College provides to students. In addition to the thrill of being among the first students to graduate from a brand-new program, I also realized that it eventually comprises of all the fundamental courses that were present in other engineering fields. So, I said to myself, ëWhy not try this?í.î
ìAerospace manufacturing engineering technology contributes about $20 billion annually to Canadaís gross domestic product (GDP). Aviation itself is separate and not a small contributor to Canada, whereas aerospace manufacturing comprises a more widespread employment sector providing 160,000 skilled jobs,î says Sandhu.
Engineering consists of six distinct branches ñ Mechanical, Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Management and Geotechnical, virtually all of which contribute to advanced technology.
Johal says, ìChemical engineering is something that combines science and economics; using principles of science to carry out processes that generate goods for our daily use which make our life way more comfortable and easier. Some of the recent areas that have highlighted the chemical engineering research are Earth-friendly plastics, cleaner energy fuels through non-conventional desulfurization of fuels and biofuels, medical microdevices, greener chemical processes and artificial photosynthesis which I find really interesting. Mainstream chemical production in industries uses thermal energy to bring about their processes. Innovative reaction technologies involve the active and advanced control of electrons and ions to contribute to material synthesis and production. They have developed systems to speed up the process of making life-saving vaccines for new viruses.î
Jobs in the advanced manufacturing sector are many and varied and the outlook for careers in this area continues to grow along with the advancements in technology.
ìThe jobs that are in high demand are the ones from nuclear energy industry and petrochemical industry because nuclear energy is getting more popular than ever because it doesnít cause air and water pollution like thermal energy (coal using) processes, and petrochemical industries as they are a lot in demand and also because they help manufacturing a large number of useful products like synthetic fibres, dyes, plastics, wax, crude oil, synthetic rubber, drugs, dyes, fertilisers, insecticides. Other than that, process engineer jobs are in high demand. Laboratory technologist jobs are popular amongst the co-op students of the program,î explains Johal
Sandhuís list includes, ìCNC operator/machinist, CMM operator, CAM and CAD designer, quality control, non-destructive testing and aircraft assembler,î he says.
And according to Van-Martin, ìThere are a ton of careers available in this field. There is the PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) side of things which is generally for production lines and big machines and stuff. Then there are embedded systems which are more for mobile applications. Someone in my program got hired at the TRIUMF particle accelerator at UBC and another got a job at BC Hydro working with motors and transformers. I would say that PLC jobs are currently in the highest demand. It is a different type of programming that people tend to not like as much so the supply of workers for these types of jobs is lower than other programming jobs. I think the career outlook in this field is extremely high and there are a lot of transferable skills if you end up deciding to pursue a career in a different field.î
Advanced manufacturing is an exciting and futuristic industry attracting keen minds and pioneering principles, and Canadaís colleges and institutes are at the forefront of this new technology, preparing the workforce of tomorrow, today.
By Jackie Fritz