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Industry Collaboration: Humber FAST Continuous Professional Learning Cultivates Custom Robot Automation Course for Magna

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Advancements in technology have a transformative impact on industries, driving the need to build a strong skilled workforce. While investing in higher education-industry collaboration is vital to producing the workforce of the future, similarly companies are committed to employee development to ensure the adult workforce remains engaged in their professional growth and motivated to expand their skill set in a world of constant change.

Magna recognized this need when one of their divisions amassed a total of 12 robot cells with only one automation engineer to service them within their maintenance team. The remainder of the maintenance staff – the electrician team – required additional skills and knowledge to service these robots.

Magna was challenged to find a training provider that could ensure that this team could meet the company’s training objectives in a timely manner. After consulting with Steve Henry, Magna’s Director of Apprenticeships and Training, the company approached Continuous Professional Learning (CPL) at the Faculty of Applied Sciences & Technology (FAST) at Humber College to create a custom training program. This program combined theoretical and practical hands-on learning to expand the team’s knowledge and develop a unique set of skills to trouble shoot and resolve level 1 robot automation issues.

“Our team is compromised of valuable long-time Magna staff who are dedicated to continuous learning and development,” says Heather McCue, Human Resources Manager, Unimotion-Gear. “We decided to partner with Humber College because they were able to take our list of desired learning outcomes and create a customized training program that ensured our electrician team would learn the required skills needed to service our robots.”

Hands on training at UMG

Hands on training at UMG
Left: David
Right: Dr. Mehrdad Iravani Tabrizipour

Humber team on Graduation Day!

Humber Team on Graduation Day!
Left: Jacqueline Smith
Middle: Dr. David Smiderle
Right: Dr. Mehrdad Iravani Tabrizipour

Driving Industry Collaboration

Lead by Associate Dean, Dr. Dave Smiderle and Manager, Jacqueline Smith, the Humber FAST CPL team worked in collaboration with Magna’s division to design a customized program that would increase the competency of its electrical team when it comes to skills required to trouble shoot robot automation issues.

“Continuous Professional Learning provides competency-based training opportunities for adult learners where they are able to gain current, industry relevant skills from experienced industry experts in a relatively short period of time,” says Dr. Smiderle. “Our collaboration with Magna is the perfect example of partnering with industry. Together, we determined what the learners needed to be able to perform on the job and designed the training around this objective.”

Humber FAST CPL presented a new approach that required careful planning and support especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The customized training considered the adult learners’ skill sets as it relates to the industrial setting, technological abilities, and safety precautions. Developing trust, openness to ask questions and provide feedback led to opportunities to validate training strategies and account for the adult learners’ prior work experience and strengths.

Once the learning objectives were determined, the program agenda was developed. A list of specific failure modes often observed on the shop floor were provided to the Humber FAST CPL team to include as exercises during lab work.

Under the direction of Humber FAST Trainer, Dr. Mehrdad Iravani Tabrizipour, the team developed a comprehensive course outline along with an orientation session and testing plan. The program blended on-line classes with one-on-one in-lab training on a robot at Humber College followed by hands-on lab work at Magna, working with the shop floor robots. This provided the opportunity for the learners to become familiar with the shop floor robot environment and transfer their learning to the actual work environment. By taking this approach, learners were also able to overcome any potential apprehensions with applying a new skill.

Graduation Day

Left: Heather McCue
Middle: Jacqueline Smith
Right: Yuka Maruyama
Centre: Dr. David Smiderle

Learn. Adapt. Pivot.

Magna identified initially six adult learners and provided key insights into the skill level and competency of each trainee including their different starting points of knowledge and experience. It was determined that the best way to approach the program was to divide the adult leaners into two Cohorts – Cohort A and Cohort B.

“This tailor-made training and one-on-one on-site training provided the opportunity to take students within each cohort with different starting points and challenges and work more closely with the trainer to ensure that when all of them reached the finish line, they achieved if not exceeded all our learning expectations,” says Yuka Maruyama, Engineering & Maintenance Manager, Unimotion-Gear. “Being able to apply what they learned in their actual work environment was the tipping point.”

Cohort A students, Miklos, David, and Titi attended the two-month program in the summer of 2021 under a concentrated lens that monitored progress and quality assurance to ensure an effective and positive learning experience.

“Regular touch-point meetings on learning progress, quality assurance and effective change management during the implementation stage was the key in securing a successful transfer-of-learning,” says Jacqueline Smith. “As the program progressed, challenges were identified in real time so we could adjust our training solutions to support the learners’ needs. I guess you could say we applied the fundamentals of continuous professional learning! We continually learned and adjusted the program to gain students’ buy-in, build their confidence and ultimately complete the learning objectives set out by Magna.”

Learner Titi practicing on a UMG robot

Right: Learner Titi practicing on a UMG robot

Celebrating Success

All students were required to complete a practical final exam rubric to earn their college micro-credentials. A minimum score was defined to meet threshold of learning that was reflective of their newly acquired skills and would enable them to be able to successfully trouble-shoot and solve real-life shop floor service calls. All three students scored more than the minimum requirement and celebrated their achievement at an outdoor graduation ceremony hosted by Magna and Humber.

Cohort B began classes in August and are expected to graduate in the Fall 2021. By early November, Magna expects to have 100% of their Electricians in this division tending to Level 1 service calls providing an opportunity for the Manufacturing Engineering team to focus on other initiatives. This CPL collaborative program positively contributed to Magna’s on-going commitment to employee development and the company is exploring additional opportunities to amplify its partnership with Humber FAST CPL.

Graduation Day!

Graduation Day!
Left: David
Middle: Miklos
Right: Titi