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The latest news from SoA


Late last year School of Automation’s (SOA) CEO Marc Cooper sat down with Kevin Kelly, General Manager for their RPA Centre of Excellence at the Health Service Executive (HSE) in Ireland to chat about the organisation’s work with automation and their successful partnership with SOA.

The HSE has been working with RPA for several years, and last year employed two SOA trainees – Gillian Martin and Danny O’Connor who are now permanent employees at the organisation.

Have a read of our interview with Kevin, Gillian, and Danny, and check out the link for the full video interview…

How did HSE discover RPA?

Kevin Kelly: We first assessed RPA in 2019 along with other public sector organisations. There had been an RPA framework established and we agreed to commence two pilots in HR and finance – both highly transactional areas. We successfully completed those pilots in February 2020, but literally, two weeks later we were in lockdown.

One of the pilots was in HR in the area of Garda (Police) vetting – that automation was able to speed up the updating of staff members vetting stages. This became really important at the start of the pandemic as we were racing to get new staff onboarded and into front-line posts.

Soon afterwards we began working with the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre who provides data on Infectious disease surveillance. We kicked off a significant piece of automation work with them around the processing of positive Covid-19 cases and have put huge numbers through those small sets of automations.

In May 2021, the HSE was hit with a criminal cyber-attack. We got our RPA systems back up and running within a few months but we then had a backlog of cases and data to process. We found that we were able to clear a four-month backlog within two weeks as we scaled up to 100 robots. For us, that really demonstrated how RPA can help the organisation deal with unexpected surges in demand.

Then Omicron hit so we again upped our robot fleet to around 120 robots to deal with that, with incredible numbers processed in January/February 2022. To date, we have completed over 5 million transactions and 600,000 hours of equivalent manual hours.

How do you find talent and resources in this space?

Recruitment is mixed and a challenge to attract people with the right skill sets into the public sector, so it’s important to build a pipeline of talent coming through.

What attracted you to SOA’s model?

We established our RPA centre of excellence in September 2022 and now operate within eHealth where we see other areas already use traineeships. What we like about SOA’s proposal is that trainees are coming in with the necessary RPA skills. It was a no-brainer to at least try!

How have developers added value?

A number of projects the SOA-sourced developers are working on have really accelerated. They are not working solo, but with a senior developer as a mentor, so having two developers on a project means we are speeding up development time.

Did they developers meet expectations?

They are both hitting the ground running and we are seeing positive results already from them. I always got the sense SOA was keen to know the outcome for the trainee. We took on Gillian initially, and would love to have taken on more – but we wanted to make sure we had the work and a mentor to work alongside. When the time was right, we were able to bring in Danny.

And now a few words from our developers who are working permanently for the HSE on automation projects.

Danny’s story…

When Danny O’Connor originally applied for the SOA course, he thought that it was about mechanical parts and robotics – and although interesting, it was a bit of shock on the first week.

“For me I was always tech-savvy but not from a programming standpoint, I had always liked tech and computers, but I was interested in being a civil servant, so it’s very interesting to see the approach with the HSE and what our projects do for the overall HSE systems. I definitely didn’t see myself here a year ago!

“Now being employed and having a stable wage and job, means my partner and I are able to plan our wedding and we were able to have our first big Christmas for our little one. The stability of the job and everyone that works at the HSE is fantastic.”

Gillian’s Story…

Gillian Martin had taken an extended career break before embarking on a course with SOA, and now say she couldn’t have imagined this is where she would be a year ago.

“When I started on the training course I was at a point in my life where I had taken quite an extensive career break and then Covid arrived and I just took the opportunity to take a training course. I was really thinking about upskilling and developing new skills and after 12-week training course with SOA I had the opportunity to take on a year’s traineeship and the HSE placement, to then being offered a permanent contract.

“It was quite an adjustment to come back into a working environment but it’s been a really positive experience. There’s plenty of flexibility – working in office a day or two a week and then from home. It’s great to be involved with the HSE and see how our work is having such a positive impact.”

Find out more about SOA and the work we do here.

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You might have heard automation being referred to as the future of work, but should you be considering it as the future of your career?

Automation, the techniques used to remove human intervention from processes, has long been considered the future of our working habits. By automating repetitive, time-consuming tasks, organisations are able to free up team members for more cost-effective and dynamic tasks. But while it may be the future of working for many, there is still only a small number who have considered automation as a career path. There are however many reasons to consider a career in automation.

The numbers alone point to a fruitful career for many in automation.

The growth of RPA automation in numbers

The first of these numbers is between 75 and 375 million.

That is the number of people it is estimated will look to reskill and switch careers by 2030. This wave of people looking to reskill and train will be driven by digital transformation across all workplaces. Employees will be needed to provide businesses with skills based in robotics, automation management, analytics, AI, cyber security and cloud services.

By starting your development in automation already you have the chance to position yourself ahead of the curve. We can already see the demand growing, in fact, the sector demand for Process Automation has grown by over 40% in recent years.

At the time of writing this blog, a simple internet search found thousands of job openings requiring skills in automation. From this, and current trend predictions we can determine that those who consider a career in automation won’t have to look far for job openings. As the demand for their skills increase, so does the financial rewards on offer.

According to the entry salary for an RPA developer is around £37,500 and the average RPA developer goes on to earn £47,000 a year. The most experienced in the field can go on to earn over £67,000 a year, giving those within the field a clear motivation to do well.

Putting aside the numbers around RPA development, there are many reasons why someone would want to consider a career within the field. One of these is the variety the sector offers its workers. With the number of businesses already or expected to deploy RPA within the coming years, those within the sector have the chance to work with a diverse range of processes within many different organisations.

Further diversity comes from the types of careers to those within RPA. Some people might decide to continue working within RPA development, while others move on to looking at RPA solution architecture or design. This would build on the skills they have learnt as an RPA developer, using them to build and design the actual solutions for businesses.

Another path within RPA to consider is RPA Analyst, sometimes referred to as a business analyst or process analyst, this role is more involved in the business-related aspects of automation. With a strong understanding of RPA development, an RPA Analyst can understand current processes and identify opportunities for automation and improvement.

Finally, someone within RPA can progress to become an RPA Project Manager, which would mix any RPA education with the responsibilities of handling a project on time and within budget. Working within Automation also gives workers the opportunity for exposure to some of the most exciting and emerging technologies. An example of this is Artificial Intelligence (A.I) RPA uses A.I in the form of intelligent processes. This pairs the elements of automating tasks with A.I to process unstructured data or using A.I to improve task performance over time.

At the School of Automation, we recognise the potential for young people to develop an exciting career with automation across the UK and Ireland. That is why we have made it our mission to create the ideal environment for talented individuals to fast-track themselves into future employment by providing them with the education and industry skills required. Those who complete our 12-week training program are guaranteed an interview for future paid employment, they are also then supported for at least 12 months depending on their location.

Find out more about a career in automation or apply now

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As International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world today (March 8), we are championing two of our recent graduates, Mhairi Fraser (21) and Marla Chalmers (20) while highlighting “Women in Tech”.

Both have just completed an 18-month apprenticeship with the School of Automation (SOA) and are poised for a career in RPA, now working on live projects for clients.

We sat down to talk to them about their journey and just what it’s like to complete the course…

Mhairi’s Story

Mhairi from Glasgow, came across the course in 2020 after initially taking the university path in education. She explained: “I had done a year of university and I failed my second semester exams, and I then really thought about what I wanted to do. I was applying for jobs, and then covid hit. My mum saw something on social media about SOA, and I thought I might give it a try.

“I did have to do some initial googling to find out what RPA was - but I think everybody comes into it not knowing exactly what it is. But once you read up about it, and you start putting it into practice, it really helps you to understand.”

The course began remotely during covid, but Mhairi said she found it quite seamless.

“Everything is on Teams – If I was struggling with an assignment and thought it was just me, I could ask a question on our group chat and someone else would be having the same issue - and it was a relief. I say it’s like “High School Musical” –We are all in this together!”

Mhairi has struck up a great friendship with Marla, and they have found out they share the same birthday – albeit a year apart.

“At start of the training project we were both so awkward and now we are really good friends. When it comes to the apprenticeship and skills, I have gained so much confidence with the support that has been offered from my peers and the team at SOA.”

Mhairi has been working on one main project since July 2021, and is currently the longest serving team member on it, so a lot of continuity tasks fall to her.

She said: “Each project is a bit different but you recognise your role in it and the different challenges that come with them. It really is interesting.”

And looking to the future? She plans to continue growing her skills in the RPA field.

“There’s just something really fun about it – like solving a puzzle almost! I can certainly see more females in tech too – for example on some of our projects it has been a 50/50 ratio – and on the client side too, which really is reassuring.”

Marla’s Story

Marla, from Glasgow was on a business administration course before embarking on the apprenticeship.

She explained: “I remember going in with no big expectations when I started, and like Mhairi I didn’t really know what RPA was, but it’s been great to learn so much over the course of the apprenticeship.”

Along with Mhairi and the rest of the team she started working remotely during covid, and found that as they were all in the same boat, it gave them all reassurance together.

“We didn’t have too much to compare it to as it was how we started, and as everything was online, it was fine working remotely. In fact, when we first when back into the office I wasn’t sure I’d like it – but actually it was really helpful to all be together and to talk to one and another instantly if we needed anything.”

And as for the apprenticeship and course itself?

“It really has been crucial in building my confidence – for me, the technical side tends to come naturally, but communication doesn’t, so it has really helped me develop that. I am working on my fourth project now and it has been so good to learn what I am doing to help the wider team.”

“Women in tech is growing – I was in a mixed school and was always one of two girls in computer classes, but I wasn’t too worried by that. It’s great to see more females coming into this field.”

Does the thought of a career in RPA interest you? Get in touch with our team today!

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