From education to employment

Northern Regional College – Leading the Way in Industrial Robotics

FANUC, a leading manufacturer of factory automation and robots and competition partner for WorldSkills, made a return visit to Northern Regional College in Ballymena this week to oversee the practical stage of the industrial robotics category in the national skills competition. 

Northern Regional College has been leading the way in educating the next generation of robotics engineers and has proven record in the national WorldSkills competition, winning gold, silver and bronze medals in 2021 and gold and bronze in 2022.

Karla Kosch, engineering lecturer at the College in Ballymena and WorldSkills UK Training Manager in Robotic Systems Integration, who has been instrumental in encouraging students and local employers to get involved in the WorldSkills series of competitions, said the success enjoyed by the College on the national stage has inspired greater numbers to get involved in this year’s competitions.

Outlining the qualifying process, she explained: “Fifty students took part in the inter-campus competition and from this, eight progressed to the first national stage or ‘passive’ stage of the competition in April.

“Over the past two months, these eight students who work in teams of two, have trained intensely so they could transfer their offline programming skills tested in the ‘passive stage’ to the practical FANUC robot cell programming.”

The four teams to compete in the practical stage are of the competition:

Hannah Currie from Randalstown, a Higher-Level Engineering Apprentice with Wrightbus and Peter O’Neill, McAuley Engineering, who has just completed a Foundation Degree in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering achieving Pass with Distinction; Wrightbus engineering apprentice, Nathan Lawrence from Randalstown and Sensata electrical and electronic Higher-Level Engineering Apprentice, Jason Linton, Ballymena; Gavin Gillan, from Ballymena, who is an electrical and electronic engineering apprentice with Dale Farm and Cameron Turkington, an engineering apprentice with Regency Carpets; and Matthew Lewis from Carrickfergus, an engineering maintenance apprentice with Moy Park and Owen Campbell, Ballymena, an engineering apprentice with AGR Automation.

Karla continued “In the practical stage, our students will compete against other students from all over the UK and only those with highest scores will be selected for the national final which will be held at FANUC’s premises in Coventry in November.”

“We wish all four teams the very best and hope they do enough to progress to the national finals and go on to enjoy the same success as our teams in previous years.”

Karla added that she was most appreciative of the way local employers – Wrightbus, McAuley Engineering, Sensata, Regency Carpets, Moy Park and AGR Automation – had supported and encouraged their apprentices to take part in the competition.

“Thanks also to FANUC UK and members of International Team UK, including former student and WorldSkills UK medallist Adam Kirkpatrick who delivered specialised training.

Industrial Robotics involves the use programmable robots to support manufacturing in an automated environment. This new skills area is included as part of the curriculum for engineering courses at Northern Regional College. 

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