Q: I am trying to develop expertise in robotics in our maintenance team, but I don't need everyone to have it. Do you have any suggestions?
A: This problem exists for several specialty competencies (e.g., refrigeration, PLCs, certified welding). If the requirement was not a condition of employment when your mechanics were hired, you need to find a way to incent them to attain those skills, or hire the expertise from outside.
If pursuing this expertise internally, one technique used successfully in the past has been to create a classification with additional pay that requires special skills. You may wish to develop three levels of competency, Robotics I, II and III, each requiring a progressive command of expertise. You will need to develop a specific set of requirements for each level of expertise. They need to be very tactical so they can be tested and demonstrated by the candidate. As the mechanic achieves each of these milestones, his special skills pay will be added to his base pay.
An advantage to doing this is that you are allowed to determine how many mechanics you need to have this skill set. You may choose to have one mechanic with that skill that services all shifts or have that skill on each shift depending upon your circumstances.
Now you need to determine how much is this new competency is worth to the mechanic. One technique is to determine how much it will cost for the mechanic to acquire the needed skills for each milestone (classes, seminars, apprenticeships). Then do the math such that he or she can get their money back in a reasonable amount of time, so it is a good investment for them. In certain situations you may want to pay for a portion of the education as an incentive, over and above the incremental pay raise to increase interest on their part.
Above all, you need to make this process a win-win for all parties. After all, you are all in this for the long haul and the arrangement needs to be transparent.