Building a Future-Ready Workforce

Architect rendering of the Automation and Robotics Center posted on Friday, November 18, 2022 in  College News

A new industrial revolution is underway.

Advances in technology, smart automation, and digital communication are not only reshaping manufacturing, but changing the definition of a skilled workforce. To stay ahead of the curve, businesses and employees will need to learn new skills, embrace new processes, and adopt new technology.

“Manufacturing is the largest industry in the Cedar Valley, making up 30 percent of our regional gross product,” said Srdjan Golub, director of community education and workforce solutions at Hawkeye Community College. “In the current state of the workforce, there aren’t enough people to support the demand in our area. We don’t want employers to move away, because that will lead to fewer jobs. We want them to stay here, and to have the ready workforce they need to support the new technologies they’ll need to bring to their business.”

These workforce needs are behind Hawkeye’s new Automation and Robotics Center, which will open at TechWorks Campus in Waterloo in the spring of 2023.

“This will be a state-of-the-art facility,” Golub said. “We partnered up with FANUC USA, and we are going to have a Connected Smart Manufacturing (CSM) line—an automated line that can simulate how it will look on the shop floor.”

The first facility of its kind in Iowa, the center’s CSM line will include a FANUC Robodrill. FANUC Certified Education Robot Training (CERT) Carts will provide additional training options. The center will also house FANUC and Haas CNC equipment. The technology will allow Hawkeye to offer new robotics certifications, beginning with robotics operator, then robotics programmer, and ultimately robotics integrator.

“When we talk to our stakeholders, an integrator position is the main position a lot of them struggle with,” Golub said. “How do you integrate new systems with existing systems and make them work together?”

The center will also focus on retraining for existing workers.

“If an employer comes and says ‘we have new processes, we are bringing in new equipment, and now we need training for this,’ we want to be able to step in and provide training for them,” Golub said. He also expects the center to serve as a testing ground for small and medium-sized companies that can work with students and staff on research and development projects.

“They can use us as a testing ground, whether they come in with their engineers, or the cohort works on it and presents it back to the company,” Golub said. “Who better to implement that than the students who worked on it?”

The center will house many existing training programs, including IGNITE: Introduction to Advanced Manufacturing, CNC Machining, and Industrial Maintenance, as well as customized training, hydraulics, programmable logic controls (PLC), workplace safety, and more.

Programs will focus on competency-based education, allowing students the flexibility to learn individual skills at a pace that best fits their needs.

“Students can get as little or as much instruction as they want, but everything is standardized down to each task,” Golub said. “It could take them a couple weeks, or a couple years to get everything done. We provide that flexibility for students, with on and off ramps. That's especially important for working adults.”

Golub says the overarching goal of the Automation and Robotics Center is to keep the Cedar Valley competitive in the ever-changing manufacturing industry.

“We’re going to have the resources and talent to support businesses as they grow to stay nationally and globally competitive,” he said. “We’re growing the local workforce for advanced manufacturing and providing the training for the modern jobs that are high in demand and higher pay.”

Smart Automation Certification Alliance

The Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to develop and deploy modular Industry 4.0 certifications for a wide range of industries. Hawkeye plans to turn the Automation and Robotics Center into Iowa’s only regional SACA certification center, providing nationally recognized industry-standard credentials in a variety of advanced manufacturing areas.


  1. Automation and Robotics Center
  2. Business and Community Education
  3. Industrial Automation
  4. Industry 4.0
  5. TechWorks
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