The first 10 issues of this column series reported progress building on the foundation of a prototype grass-roots industry/academia collaborative effort to prepare the next generation of PCB “experts.” You can review that history in back issues of this column here.
In this issue, we’ll concentrate on the current status of efforts to replicate that success in other areas of North America, and our collaboration with other like-minded organizations. The loosely-affiliated team that is working this one aspect of the future staffing shortfall has accepted the working title, “Electronics Manufacturing Technical Education Project.” It exists to support and facilitate post-secondary educational programs for next generation electronics manufacturing staff here in North America.
A partial, oversimplified listing of current activities around the country follows (Table 1). For example, many of the participants are cross-involved in supporting efforts at multiple “nodes” around the country, and discussions with other potential industry/academia pairings are ongoing. No offense to the many, many active participants omitted due to space reasons.
Table 1: A sampling of programs around the United States offering technical courses.
As we’ve tried to stress repeatedly, each of these industry/academia collaborations must be tailored to local workforce needs, academic capabilities, and the resources available to maximize their chances to become self-sustaining. The most common misunderstanding we’ve heard is that, since the prototype program started by emphasizing printed circuit fabrication (since modified to a more balanced approach), if a candidate site needed to emphasize some other aspect of the electronics manufacturing industry, they believed this Electronics Manufacturing Technical Education Project couldn’t help. That’s not the case, but it has hampered some early discussions.
One goal that the pandemic has elevated in importance is to gather and offer curricula material for use in virtual learning sessions, either as the core of a new startup, or to supplement (fill gaps) in existing educational efforts. PDF/PPT versions of most of the lectures shown above will be included in a catalog of curricula materials that can be used elsewhere. We’re working through the logistics associated with the massive storage requirements, and authorizing access for full-video recordings of lectures, as well as large quantities of electronic training materials accumulated over the years, up to and including a full master’s-level online course in electronics manufacturing from a now-defunct program.
As you can imagine, when we started this expansion effort in earnest (mid 2020), we anticipated we’d be well along in meeting with local industry/academia hubs in organizing additional offerings around the country. The extended impact of the pandemic has seriously delayed that plan.
At present, a core team of industry, educators, SMTA, and DoD is meeting every other week to provide status updates on the other developing “nodes” around the country. The other sites under development range from two-year tech programs to four-year engineering degree add-ons, with content customized to match the local industry consensus on workforce need. We are discussing with the DoD’s Industrial Base Assessment and Sustainment group, through their Cornerstone OTA structure, whether the lingering impact of the pandemic requires modification of their support boundaries.
Whether you’d like to be a part of this effort, or if we can help you with a local project in electronics manufacturing workforce development along different lines, please reach out to one of the team.
For further information, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Appendix A: 2021 Michigan Tech Guest Lecture series. Lectures listed in red have some element not yet completely confirmed. As has been the case since the first year of this effort, the guest lecture series has more willing speakers than available sessions, as inevitably business travel, illness, etc., will force some changes.
Editor’s Note: This column documents an effort to address one need (of many) in developing the next generation of electronics manufacturers. This started with the university course in PCB manufacturing at Michigan Technological University (MTU). This class serves as a prototype for additional industry/academia local collaborative education/training classes in other parts of North America.
Marc Carter has worked in the electronics interconnection industry since 1984 in a variety of roles in fabrication and assembly materials, processes, environmental compliance, and supply chain management activities around the world. He has had the honor and privilege of working with and learning from many of the true giants of this industry in multiple functions over many years. His experience includes a major mil-aero OEM, field and development work at materials suppliers to the printed circuit industry, and an educational stint as the sole proprietor of a manufacturer’s agency representing multiple high-tech mil-aero material suppliers. For further information, he can be reached at email@example.com.