Ro­bot­ics ex­perts needed in shift­ing econ­omy

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By CHAI HUA in Shen­zhen grace@chi­nadai­

Month af­ter month, the na­tional eco­nomic re­ports show ba­si­cally the same growth rate. Noth­ing seems to have changed.

On­the shop floor level, how­ever, thou­sands of in­di­vid­u­als are turn­ing over a new leaf in their ca­reers, ev­i­dence of a coun­try in tran­si­tion.

In Shen­zhen, Guang­dong prov­ince, a man­u­fac­tur­ing pow­er­house for the past 30 years, many old jobs are be­ing phased out, and many new ones are up for grabs.

Wang Zaolin is an ex­am­ple. The 27-year-old for­mer unit head of Fox­conn, a Tai­wan­based multi­na­tional com­pany that out­sources man­u­fac­tur­ing for Ap­ple, quit his job re­cently to study to be­come a ro­bot­ics en­gi­neer.

A few months ago, Wang’s unit trimmed its work­force by half.

“I used to be as­signed to su­per­vise up to 40 work­ers. Now it’s only 20,” he said. The work­ers had been re­placed by robots.

As a grad­u­ate of a vo­ca­tional school, Wang had been paid around 4,000 yuan ($600) a month. But he ex­pects his wage to at least dou­ble af­ter he mas­ters pro­gram­ing, trou­bleshoot­ing and main­tain­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence-driven ma­chines that are a grow­ing phe­nom­e­non in his city.

Many Shen­zhen work­ers envy Wang’s op­por­tu­nity. Sim­i­lar train­ing fa­cil­i­ties are few in the city.

Wang’s school is called Linkway In­tel­li­gence Ed­u­ca­tion (Shen­zhen) and spe­cial­izes in train­ing for­mer as­sem­bly-line work­ers. Wang is learn­ing Pro­gram­mable Logic Con­trol, a ba­sic skill for de­sign­ing and con­trol­ling robots and a re­quired course for be­com­ing a ro­bot­ics en­gi­neer.

Lian Guofu, di­rec­tor of the school, said the course in in­dus­trial ro­bot­ics pro­gram­ming and ap­pli­ca­tions is among the most pop­u­lar lately. Open­ing in March, the school has trained 63 stu­dents and ex­pects to quadru­ple that num­ber in one year.

But train­ing schools like Linkway are un­likely to keep up with de­mand. A num­ber of fac­to­ries don’t bother to in­vest in ed­u­ca­tion and some vo­ca­tional schools have yet to be equipped.

In Dong­guan, a smaller man­u­fac­tur­ing city near Shen­zhen, a school set up by Chi­tone Hu­man Re­source Chain is also find­ing ro­bot­ics-re­lated cour­ses to be pop­u­lar, ac­cord­ing to Huang Ting­sheng, the school’s vice-di­rec­tor.

Across the Pearl River Delta area, many com­pa­nies want to use robots on their as­sem­bly lines. Data pro­vided by the In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Ro­bot­ics show that robots are also agents for cre­at­ing new jobs.

Com­pa­nies need ro­botic-strained tal­ent just as much as they need robots, said Shang Zhen­hua, di­rec­tor of the en­gi­neer­ing cen­ter for Linkway Tech­nol­ogy Devel­op­ment, par­ent of Linkway In­tel­li­gence Ed­u­ca­tion.

In his com­pany, at least 400 work­ers have been re­placed by 200 robots in the last cou­ple of years.


A worker learns how to con­trol a ro­botic arm in Shen­zhen, Guang­dong prov­ince, in July, in re­sponse to a ris­ing lo­cal de­mand for ro­bot­ics en­gi­neers.

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