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European project aims to anticipate and address skills gap in AM

An new four-year collaborative European project aims to develop an effective system for identifying and anticipating the right skills needed in the additive manufacturing (AM) sector.

The project will also develop specific qualifications for AM and increase the attractiveness of the sector to young people.

The Sector Skills Strategy in Additive Manufacturing (SAM) project, coordinated by The European Federation for Welding, Joining and Cutting (EWF), was established in January 2019 with the aim of supporting the growth, innovation, and competitiveness of the AM sector.

The 16 partners of the project will do this by promoting the AM sector through engaging with different target groups, namely existing workforce and students from primary school, vocational education and training (VET), and higher education (HE), by putting in place an awareness campaign that will stimulate the creativity of both the partnership and the audience.

The project partners include industrial representatives from the AM sector, organisations involved in the fields of VET and/or HE, and umbrella organisations. All partners have expertise in manufacturing technology and/or in the provision of education, and all of them are recognised players in the field. The project has a duration of 48 months and ends on 31 December 2022.

‘As Europe seeks to retain its leading position in industrial competitiveness, there is an urgent need to establish a platform for AM skills at European, national and regional levels,’ the partners commented.

‘Technology is evolving at a much faster pace than the development of the workers’ skills to use it,’ they continued. ‘Most of the current initiatives and projects that focus on skills shortages are developing skills for existing needs and shortages, meaning that industry is already demanding personnel with those competences…it means that there is no strategical approach to skills in AM, and that the current methodology to answer skills needs is based on reaction instead of prediction and planning.

‘Adding to this, the time between identification of the skill needs and shortages and the capability of deploying qualification/training modules to address them is not aligned with the industry requirements, since in most cases it takes about 1-2 years to create the required professional profile/qualification or competence unit/training module and to have it deployed.’

The SAM project therefore intends to:

  • Build a sector skills strategy in AM
  • Assess and anticipate skills (gaps and shortages) in AM
  • Support with data the AM European Qualification System and foster wideness of its scope
  • (Re)design professional profiles according to the industry requirements
  • Develop specific relevant qualifications to be delivered for the AM sector
  • Increase the attractiveness of the sector to young people, whilst promoting gender balance
  • Strengthen education-research-industry partnerships and encourage creativity ‘in companies and relevant educational and scientific institutions’
  • Track students, trainees and job seekers and promote match making between job offer and search.

In addition to EWF, partners of the project include, amongst others: The European Powder Metallurgy Association (EPMA), Renishaw, the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), LZH Laser Akademie, Brunel University London, and Politecnico Di Milano.

A 2018 report on 3D Printing and AM by Wohlers Associates stated that the overall AM industry grew 21 per cent in 2017, expanding by more than €1 billion. In addition, according to UK professional services firm Ernst & Young, the demand for AM and related services is expected to reach €10 billion in 2020.

The SAM project is funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme.

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