Much has been written about how automation has become entrenched in manufacturing, but one telling statistic is this: job market demand is already shifting from building robots to maintaining them.

Over the last five years, we have seen rapid growth and maturation in the job market demand for robotics skills. As new skills enter the market, they often follow defined, predictable flow patterns as they spread to new occupations and industries. Technology skills start small and gradually spread from roles which design and develop the technology to users who implement those technologies in the market. That maturation process is currently playing out for job seekers with robotics skills across a range of professions.

Since 2012, we’ve seen a 231% increase in total job demand for roles calling for robotics skills. We are also seeing notable changes in what roles require robotics skills. Five years ago, Electrical Engineers, who are responsible for designing robots, were the number one ranking job requesting robotics skills. They have since fallen to No. 3.

Manufacturing Roles Requesting Robotics Skills

OccupationsRank of Job Ads
2012
Rank of Job Ads
July 2016-June 2017
Maintenance Technician21
Software Developer / Engineer42
Electrical Engineer13
Mechanical Engineer34
Manufacturing Engineer55

The occupation most frequently calling for robotics skills today are maintenance technicians. Those workers are responsible for ensuring that robots on the factory floor and elsewhere are functioning properly. This trend aligns with a remarkable aspect of American manufacturing. Since the Great Recession, manufacturing output is up dramatically (23% as of Winter 2017) but manufacturing employment has edged up only 8% in that same time span. Robotics and automation are largely responsible for this increase in productivity.

Impact of automation and robotics skills: Manufacturing employment lags behind productivity

The second most frequent occupation requesting robotics skills are software developers. This again is a sign of the maturation of the market and of the technologies. Employers are looking for more people to write the software controlling the robots than electrical engineers to design and build the hardware.

Within the data, we also see a diverse set of demand across roles and industries. As robotic surgery has become an increasingly standard practice, the healthcare industry has become a major industry hiring workers with robotics skills. 15% of all positions related to robotics are at hospitals and healthcare facilities and the demand for doctors and nurses with robotic surgery skills has increased by over 300% in the last five years.

As robotic technology advances over the coming years and the use of robots becomes more common in our homes and workplaces, we can expect that ever more occupations will require robotics skills beyond the production and engineering roles which absorb most of the demand today.

Dan Restuccia is Chief Analytics and Product Officer for Burning Glass Technologies.

 

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