Better to Light a Candle: Chapter 8—Expanding the Model in This New Reality

Editor’s Note: This column is part of a series on the university course in PCB manufacturing at Michigan Technological University (MTU), which will serve as the prototype of additional industry-academia local collaborative education and training classes in other parts of North America.

The first seven issues of this column series, I’ve reported on starting a collaborative grassroots industry-academia effort to prepare the next generation of PCB “experts.” Individuals and companies from all over the U.S. have been able to come together to pass on PCB experience through a very hands-on design, build, assemble, and test opportunity at MTU.

Based on this prototype effort, now in its second year, we have begun networking in earnest, attempting to replicate this success at other “nodes” with similar industry-academia collaborations tailored to local workforce needs, academic capabilities, and the resources available.

In this column, I’ll outline the progress of efforts to replicate the MTU “prototype” at other industry-academia “nodes” around the country.

Fall 2020 Class Status

Colleges and universities across the country are grappling with in-person vs. distance learning choices everywhere. Likewise, interested industry partners are trying to operate while dealing with the pandemic in their workplaces. At this point, none of the academic organizations we’ve spoken to are in a position to consider expanding their offerings in this direction for this fall’s classes. For that matter, the industry partners are still coming to grips with operating under the burden of the pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped them from meeting to start planning actions.

Current News

On August 19, some of the people interested in helping expand this workforce education effort to other locations around the United States held their first introductory web meeting to confirm candidate locations and contacts, assess what resources we have available, what we lack, and a tentative timetable. Last-minute schedule conflicts kept representatives from University of Arizona and Calumet Electronics from signing in, but those in attendance included:

  • Peter Bigelow, IMI PCB
  • Nolan Johnson, I-Connect007
  • Marc Carter, Aeromarc LLC
  • Happy Holden, I-Connect007
  • Dr. Chris Middlebrook, MTU
  • Tanya Martin, SMTA
  • Russ Adams, Prototron Circuits
  • Dan Gamota, Jabil
  • Girish Wable, Jabil


Among other things, we shared a recent piece of welcome news—namely the participation of the Army’s Cornerstone Other Transactional Authority (OTA) under the auspices of the National Imperative for Industrial Skills [1]. That support will offset some travel costs in support of expanding the model of the MTU prototype elsewhere, potentially provide some limited gap-filling equipment, subject-matter expert needs as and where identified, etc. Until now, the effort had been sustained completely on a voluntary basis, with many companies and individuals donating their time and expertise. That need for participation will continue, and nobody is getting “paid,” but this limited funding will bridge some gaps.

During the meeting, we:

  1. Introduced the participants with some brief overview of what they saw as local needs
  2. Reviewed the MTU/Calumet prototype, content, approach, and goals
  3. Identified short-term contact targets, further explored local needs, and reviewed resources available, including the recorded MTU lectures and lab videos, SMTA’s Young Professionals Career Guide, etc.
  4. Agreed who would undertake individual contacts, including some new potential contacts
  5. Agreed to meet for a progress report in two weeks

Representatives from the Cornerstone OTA team will be attending the upcoming status update meeting to provide guidance and performance expectations, resources, etc.

Next Steps

With the educational organizations grappling with restarting this fall while dealing with the pandemic, and the industry partners adapting their operations to the same stresses, no one is expecting new class startups in the remainder of 2020. Even the established MTU operation will not resume full operation until January 2021. We expect that reaching out to the educators, establishing local needs, and matching those with existing resources, and securing the missing pieces will occupy the remainder of 2020. It’s possible that we will make enough progress, and travel restrictions will ease sufficiently to permit local organizational meetings in the fourth quarter of 2020 for class programs in the spring or fall of 2021. We are frustrated at the pandemic impediments, but we will persevere, and we are excited at the prospect of expanding this effort to help train some of the next generation of board geeks.


  1. GovTribe, “Cornerstone Initiative: CS-20-1601 National Imperative for Industrial Skills,” January 17, 2020.

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



Better to Light a Candle: Chapter 8—Expanding the Model in This New Reality


Marc Carter posts an update on the collaborative grassroots effort to prepare the next generation of PCB “experts" by outlining the progress of efforts to replicate the MTU “prototype” at other industry-academia “nodes” around the country.

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