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​A mention of robotics can prompt many to think of space-age humanoid robots akin to Rosie the Maid from ‘The Jetsons’. The reality of robotics, however, is much more practical, with Hunter TAFE offering training that can be applied to robotic equipment maintenance in the field, in industries as diverse as manufacturing and agriculture.
“For students interested in robotics the Certificate III Electronics and Communication is perfect,” said Hunter TAFE Head Teacher (Electronics) David Leask. “It’s a course where students learn about systems control and automation, skills that are in increasing demand in a variety of local industries,” said Mr Leask. 
Cardiff South’s Conrad Neilands is in his second year of the three-year course and is employed full-time as a System Integration Specialist with Mayfield West environmental monitoring and data management firm Novecom.
His employer has supported him in attending the one-day-a-week course. “They see the benefits of the skills I am developing,” Neilands said. “There are many efficiencies that we now have, in terms of repairing equipment in-house that we would have previously had to send elsewhere. There are also new opportunities for the type of work we take on,” said Mr Neilands.
Neilands is currently using the automation skills he has learnt at Hunter TAFE to develop a prototype for a device to catch wild horses humanely, needed for an Upper Hunter client. “It’s a machine that can see in the dark and trigger a gate to close,” he said. “Currently, this is being done by a person throughout the night, in the cold and dark, so you can imagine the benefits. We’re hoping there will be future implications for catching feral pigs.”
Neilands said he has found his TAFE studies satisfying. “I was stuck in a programming rut where there was little interfacing with the real world,” he said “Through this training I can now work on the hardware as well as the software and have something tangible to show for it. It’s very rewarding.”