Tutors have been given a tantalising glimpse of the technology heading towards their college that will transform the way the next generation of students learn and work.
Darlington College placement coach Tomos Ellis and business development advisor Paul Clark were taken on a tour of Cobots Online, the Aycliffe-based robotics specialists helping them with the latest phase of development for learners.
The college is developing a robotics automation training facility, electric vehicle workshop, technical support lab and a business hub for professional qualifications in a major boost for students and apprentices.
The Robotics Lab will include an automated manufacturing production line utilising different types of robotic equipment along the production process.
This follows a successful bid for £2.695m by Darlington Council and Darlington College from the government’s Town Fund initiative.
This came on the heels of a £600,000 Social Development Fund grant to develop a business hub for professional qualifications.
Automation is expected to change the labour market with laborious, repetitive tasks taken on by robots that can work 24/7, tirelessly without breaks, thereby reducing overheads and making UK industry more competitive globally.
Darlington College is aiming to train the next generation of hi-tech workers to meet a skills gap for national and local companies, staff equipped to help businesses install, adapt, programme, maintain and repair the cobots (collaborative robots).
Cobots Online is part of ALM, a cubicle hardware manufacturer on Aycliffe Business Park, and was born when it invested in cobots.
Business development manager Mark Thompson said: “They arrived in a box and we had to learn how to install and programme them ourselves. It occurred to us then that other companies would have to do the same and the business was born.
“We now work with a whole range of businesses from SMEs to tier one automotive companies helping them integrate their equipment.
“This equipment is so accessible now but with such a wide range of functions and capabilities, businesses can benefit from expert guidance to unlock their full potential.
“It’s great that the college is now becoming involved so students can receive hands-on learning.
“Industry is moving on and cobots will allow the UK to compete on the global stage as they reduce the cost of labour.
“This technology also has huge ramifications on the workforce. It takes away laborious tasks, has health and safety benefits because robots don’t suffer from fatigue, vibration white finger, arc eye or particulate-related chest complaints.
“And they open up the opportunity for the workforce to be involved in more creative, skilled and energising roles, while also addressing labour shortages.”
Darlington College business development advisor Paul Clark said: “We are really excited about this and it is great to see the college at the heart of all this sensational new technology.
“We will help provide our economy with a workforce that is fit for the needs of modern industry.
“It will be great for our apprenticeship ambitions and will provide people with a new stream of learning, as well as offering our teaching staff an experience that is cutting edge and innovative.”
• Pictured above: Bright new future, L-R, Darlington College placement coach Tomos Ellis and business development advisor Paul Clark with Cobots Online commercial manager Matt Thompson and business development manager Mark Thompson at their hi-tech facility in Newton Aycliffe.