Auckland joins global alliance for automation skills

The University of Auckland is the first higher education institution in Australasia to join a global robotic process automation company that aims to equip more than a million students with what it calls “critical automation skills”.

Auckland will be part of an ‘academic alliance’ programme being extended by the company UiPath to Australia and New Zealand.

The goal is to train a million or more students around the world in automation skills over the next three years, helping prepare them for ‘the workplace of the future’.

As well as equipping students with critical skills, they would also learn how to “leverage robotic process automation” or RPA in workplaces, as well as being prepared to work alongside software-controlled robots.

Professor Nic Smith, dean of Auckland’s faculty of engineering, said the potential for robotics and automation to reshape the future workforce was enormous.

“Our partnership with UiPath offers engineering students the exciting opportunity to engage with these changes by studying RPA with the experts themselves,” Smith said.

“This direct involvement gives students unique insights that are beyond textbooks, allowing them to see how an impact can be made in the real world.”

Smith said his faculty was committed to “addressing some of tomorrow’s biggest challenges”.

“We are looking forward to seeing how our first cohort of students will thrive in this world-first experience, and subsequently contribute to a field that is increasingly vital to our future.”

‘Human goal’

Tom Clancy, UiPath’s senior vice -president for learning, said economic development was not just a technological goal but also a ‘human one’.

“Australia and New Zealand are experiencing a period of rapid economic and technological transformation and the workplace of the future will look very different to that of today,” Clancy said.

“We need to prepare and train our youth for a more automated future, one where the ability to work alongside robots will be as important as the skills they bring to bear.”

He said the company recognised that education and re-skilling were vital to “thrive in a digital future”.

“We hope that Australia and New Zealand’s academic institutions will join us in our endeavour to prepare for this future.”

UiPath Managing Director Andrew Phillips said the future of work was not about being able to code. “It’s about being able to manage and optimise teams of software robots.”

Phillips said some forecasters predicted that by 2021, more than four million robots would be doing office, administrative, sales and related tasks.

“Imagine the advantage graduates and employees will have if they can deploy and manage robots to take care of all the boring, mundane and repetitive tasks of their job,” he said.

Phillips said this would give them the time to put their education, experience and intelligence to good use and make a real difference.

The RPA courses will be incorporated into existing curricula offered by higher education institutions in Australia and New Zealand.

This would help to “institutionalise RPA within academia” and prepare students and educators with in-demand automation skills, Phillips said.

The courses would be developed by instructors who would train and qualify educators who, once certified, would then be able to teach their students and other educators.

“UiPath will provide content to educate students with RPA, teach how automation is applied to business processes, and equip technical students with RPA developer skills,” Phillips said.

The company would also provide the curriculum, course content, its software platform, learning materials, regular educator training and tools.

A number of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) institutions have joined the academic alliance programme. They include Singapore’s Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and the Institute of Technical Education, as well as King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang in Thailand.

Phillips said that since the global launch of the alliance last October, more than 100 colleges and universities had adopted RPA as part of their curricula, allowing students to develop skills needed for the jobs of the future.

Colleges or universities that are interested can find more information about the alliance at

Phillips said UiPath was leading the ‘automation first’ era and pushing to have one robot for every person. This would deliver free and open training and collaboration, enabling robots to learn new skills through artificial intelligence and machine learning.

He said the company’s enterprise platform, Robotic Process Automation, had already automated millions of repetitive, “mind-numbing” tasks for business and government organisations around the world, “thus improving productivity, customer experience and employee job satisfaction”.