Martin O’Brien, founder of AMTCE, on the relatively new centre’s plans for training the next crop of advanced manufacturing workers. Last year, it trained 1,070 learners.
My vision when establishing the AMTCE in 2021 was to facilitate the delivery of higher quality, flexible, sector-specialised further education and training programmes to the manufacturing sector.”
Martin O’Brien spearheads the now almost two-year-old AMTCE, also known by its longer name – the Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre of Excellence.
It does pretty much exactly what its name suggests. It is an education hub for learners, but it is also a resource for industry stakeholders to tap when it comes to recruiting talent.
Located in Dundalk, Co Louth, the training centre falls under the auspices of the Louth Meath Education and Training Board (LMETB). O’Brien has been CEO of LMETB since 2017.
He began work there with a staff of 2,500 and a €150m annual budget.
His ambitions for the AMTCE extend far beyond the borders of Louth and Meath, however. This is very much an All-Ireland centre that has already signed partnership deals with organisations in the US and Germany.
“I was very clear when setting up the AMTCE that it would be an All-Ireland, EU and internationally recognised centre of excellence, and that it would work, share and cooperate with all key global stakeholders,” said O’Brien.
One of the first of these stakeholders to come on board was the Irish Manufacturing Research Centre (IMR), which O’Brien identified as “one of the key strategic alliances required to make the AMTCE a success.”
Like many other sectors, the manufacturing industry is becoming more and more technical. Advanced manufacturing or industry 4.0 are both terms that are used to label the intersection of manufacturing and tech.
“Right now, manufacturers in various sectors across Ireland are exploring and implementing solutions that come under the industry 4.0 and 5.0 umbrella,” O’Brien explained. Industry 5.0 is even more advanced than its predecessor in that it takes a more holistic approach to manufacturing tech.
“The cloud is crucially important, with old in-house IT infrastructures being replaced by more flexible, adaptable and secure cloud solutions.” Whereas IoT, smart machines, robotics and big data are major components of industry 4.0, industry 5.0 refers to all of those as well as sustainability and ethics.
“85pc of manufacturing-related jobs are located outside Dublin, so industry 4.0 and 5.0 will bring plenty of opportunity for those looking to enjoy well-paid, highly skilled manufacturing-based roles outside the major urban area”
In fact, O’Brien mentioned sustainability officer as one of the many careers on offer in the manufacturing tech sector. Other top careers at present are control systems engineer, automation engineer, validation engineer, equipment systems engineer, data scientist, robotics engineer, IT solution architect, UI and UX designer, project manager, robotic welders, 3D construction techs and cybersecurity engineers.
That’s a lot of high-tech, high stakes jobs. According to O’Brien, “85pc of manufacturing-related jobs are located outside Dublin, so industry 4.0 and 5.0 will bring plenty of opportunity for those looking to enjoy well-paid, highly skilled manufacturing-based roles outside the major urban area.”
The AMTCE is already delivering an industry-ready talent pipeline of skilled workers to fill such roles. As O’Brien put it, they will help Ireland to meet global challenges and contribute to employers’ competitiveness, resilience and productivity levels.
During 2022, the AMTCE delivered training to 1,070 learners. The year represented a “significant step forward in the delivery of training programmes and new programme development” at the centre.
It got €11m in funding in November 2022 from the Government. The funding was awarded so the centre could expand and acquire the most up-to-date equipment its learners need.
Students can use computer labs, virtual classrooms, robotics and cobotics labs, as well as additive manufacturing, welding and engineering facilities.
Last May, AMTCE had its first intake of 15 learners for a cybersecurity apprenticeship programme it launched in collaboration with Fastrack into IT. And last October, the centre launched two traineeship programmes in maintenance skills technologies (pneumatics/electronics) in collaboration with Intel.
Also in 2022, AMTCE received approval from the Apprenticeship Council to develop a new Level 6 apprenticeship in robotics and automation. The programme could be up and running as soon as 2024.
The spate of developments at the AMTCE have been happening alongside big plans on the LMETB side.
LMETB is set to get a new corporate headquarters in Drogheda which has just progressed from the planning stage to tender.
There will also be a new training centre in Drogheda for electrical apprentices, which O’Brien said could have “an anticipated throughput of almost 400 apprenticeships per year.”
He said that LMETB is even teaming up with the AMTCE to develop a new micro-credential programme in robotics and advanced manufacturing.
There are some ideas in the pipeline to establish a hub for advanced construction technology and a green skills demonstration and training hub in Co Meath.
O’Brien is particularly keen to get more apprenticeships on stream. He knows that learning on the job and getting to make connections with industry players is invaluable for early-career professionals.
His own background is in industry, in fact. “My career path wasn’t the traditional route for an educator,” he acknowledged. He worked in Gypsum Industries (now called Saint-Gobain Construction Products) in Cavan for years. He believes the management leadership skills and industrial experience he gained there have served him very well in the vocational education sector.
Prior to taking the helm at LMETB and AMTCE, he served as CEO of Sligo VEC, Monaghan VEC, before becoming CEO of Cavan and Monaghan Education and Training Board. His years in industry mean he is attuned to employers’ needs as well as learners’ needs.
No doubt 2023 will yield yet more developments in Ireland’s industry 4.0 and 5.0 education space on his watch.