SAM launches European Skills Strategy Roadmap to tackle 3D printing skill-gaps

The SAM (Sector Skills Strategy in Additive Manufacturing) consortium has published its European Roadmap for Additive Manufacturing to tackle skill gaps across the 3D printing sector.

The EU-funded project is coordinated by the European Welding Federation, of which 3D Printing Industry is a SAM Associated Partner, and in publishing the roadmap has outlined how it intends to address evolving sector needs and challenges to skills development until 2030.

The strategy outlines the critical skills shortage-related challenges currently facing the 3D printing industry, referred to by SAM as ‘gap drivers,’ and proposes several strategic objectives and initiatives to address these obstacles. 

SAM’s strategy is informed by two survey-led research phases, aimed at both industry professionals and 3D printing firms, that identified current and future skill gaps in the industry’s workforce.

AM value chain segments in SAM's Skills Strategy Roadmap. Image via SAM.
AM value chain segments in SAM’s Skills Strategy Roadmap. Image via SAM.

Identifying gap drivers in the AM sector

SAM’s roadmap has singled out seven of the most pressing challenges facing the 3D printing industry in terms of skills development and has laid out supporting actions and initiatives to tackle each of them for the next decade. 

First up on the consortium’s list is strengthening the collaboration between industry and training organizations. SAM identified that AM sector growth and development happens faster than educational systems can adapt. Furthermore, research showed the current design and engineering courses do not always deliver the necessary skills and knowledge needed to enter the 3D printing industry. To overcome this, SAM is engaging the industry in the validation and identification of skills and training programs, defining a collaborative skills strategy with main industrial partners, and has created an open platform for those in the industry to provide their inputs on necessary AM skills and requirements.

SAM will also look to tackle the lack of AM personnel at the European level, in response to competition for skilled workers and a lack of knowledge from existing workers and students, through upskilling and reskilling initiatives. The third challenge involves preparing European, national and regional organizations to counter the obstacles of 3D printing in terms of qualified personnel after recognizing a shortage of training centers capable of delivering adequate training. Among other actions, SAM has created a network of national and transnational AM training providers, supported the upskilling of AM-focused training centers, and is working to engage industry, academia, and training organizations in collaborative training projects.

The fourth gap driver identified by SAM is a lack of harmonized approaches to training across different sectors from stakeholders such as standardization bodies, educational and industrial councils. To combat this, the skills strategy proposes engagement with various sectoral organizations to identify common training requirements and implement international qualifications recognized by different sectors in order to provide a common base for knowledge and training demands. 

The skills strategy will also address the need for continual training regarding new 3D printing processes and the development of existing ones, as fast-evolving technologies such as cybersecurity, multi-materials, machine learning, and printed electronics continue to mature within the AM sector. SAM is preparing the future 3D printing workforce by promoting the industry within schools, universities, and other academic institutions and growing the awareness of AM as a career path for young people.

The final gap driver identified in SAM’s skills strategy is leveraging existing funding programs to help smaller companies implement AM training and process awareness. To achieve this, SAM is providing information on existing initiatives to supply training centers and schools with 3D printing equipment and software, mobilizing skills-related programs at the EU and national level, and guiding firms towards training and qualification funding opportunities.

Strategic objectives forseen in SAM's Skills Strategy Roadmap. Image via SAM.
Strategic objectives forseen in SAM’s Skills Strategy Roadmap. Image via SAM.

Deploying the IAMQS

SAM’s Skills Strategy Roadmap aims to enable each strategic initiative to be developed realistically and measurably. The rollout will be supported by the introduction of an International AM Qualification System (IAMQS). 

Supported by a quality assurance system, the IAMQS is comprised of a set of qualifications for different proficiency levels in AM technologies that are aligned with industry requirements and validated by experts. Within the system, a single syllabus for each proficiency level is defined, containing a harmonized approach for assessment and quality assurance. This enables the same qualification to be awarded and recognized between different countries.

The IAMQS is now deployed through a network of selected training providers with connections to a wide range of industrial sectors active in the 3D printing industry.

A newly-created European AM Observatory will manage the implementation of the IAMQS and will be responsible for collecting and analyzing data to identify and anticipate the skills that will be needed in the 3D printing sector presently and in the future.

The full outline of SAM’s Skills Strategy Roadmap is available to view, as is a shortened booklet version that summarises the roadmap’s gap drivers and strategic actions. A second version of the roadmap will be published in 2022 in order to reflect the increasing speed at which AM technologies are evolving.

Readers who are interested in becoming involved in the IAMQS or the European AM Observatory can find out more information here.

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Featured image shows SAM is committed to supporting the growth, innovation, and competitiveness of the AM sector. Photo via SAM.