Advanced manufacturing technology 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 Canada’s Report from Canada’s 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 Canada’s 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.
Colleges and Institutes of Canada (CiCan) facilities of higher learning located across the country offer over 380 programs related to advanced manufacturing. These programs consist 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.
Puneet Kaur Johal is currently enrolled in the Chemical Engineering Technology program at Sheridan College. In her second year, she will be doing a co-op placement as a Lab Technologist during this summer term. She says, “Colleges 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.”
Johal continues, “Chemical 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.”
Canada’s 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 the Aerospace Manufacturing Engineering Technician program at Centennial College. He says, “I never had a chance of being exposed to something which would enhance my practical knowledge, instead of just theoretical knowledge. While I was looking for courses to study in Canada, there were many options that included mechanical, robotics and electrical. Then 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, ‘Why not try this?’.”
Andrew Van-Martin is an Automation Specialist for the BID Group of Companies that makes and installs machines in lumber mills across North America to help speed up their production and automate the process as much as possible. “I saw the robotics program on my schools website. I have always had a passion for science and my end goal is to work in the space industry. I figured rockets were basically giant robots so the robotics program would be a great place for me to start. I have my Mechatronics and Robotics diploma from BCIT. Prior to the program there I had done grade 12 physics, chemistry, and pre-calculus,” says Van-Martin.
Top level education in the advanced manufacturing industry means that Canada is also an ideal country for investment.
Johal says, “Canada’s chemical industry has attracted investments from around the globe, such as from the top-five chemical producing companies in the world based in countries like China, Germany and the USA, according to data provided by ICIS and Invest in Canada. Canada has become one of the top choices for chemical manufacturers to set up business operations in Canada because of its luring natural resources, abundant space, skilled technicians, low business cost and no shortage of labourers because of the high surge of immigrants.”
The industry is a major component of Canada’s economy.
“Aerospace manufacturing engineering technology contributes about $20 billion annually to Canada’s 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,” says Sandhu.
Van-Martin agrees, “This (robotics) sector contributes to Canada’s economy by being on the cutting edge of robotics technology. Some 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.”
Jobs in the advanced manufacturing sector are many and varied.
“The 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 doesn’t 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,” explains Johal
Sandhu’s list includes, “CNC operator/machinist, CMM operator, CAM and CAD designer, quality control, non-destructive testing and aircraft assembler,” he says.
And according to Van-Martin, “There 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.” Advanced manufacturing is an exciting and futuristic industry attracting keen minds and pioneering principles, and Canada’s colleges and institutes are at the forefront of this new technology, preparing the workforce of tomorrow, today.
By Jackie Fritz