Better to Light a Candle: Chapter 11—Expanding and Adapting in the Face of the Pandemic

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.

C_Carter_Feb21_Table1.jpg 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.

Get Involved

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 pmcarter01@outlook.com.

References

C_Carter_Feb21_AppendixA.jpg

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 pmcarter01@outlook.com.

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2021

Better to Light a Candle: Chapter 11—Expanding and Adapting in the Face of the Pandemic

02-09-2021

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.

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Better to Light a Candle: Chapter 10—Expanding the Base and Building the New

01-19-2021

In this 10th installment, Marc Carter continues to report on the progress of the collaborative effort between industry and academic to prepare the next generation of PCB "experts." Here, he concentrates on a line-up of guest lecturers at Michigan Tech.

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2020

Better to Light a Candle: Chapter Nine—Growing Interest Around the Country

10-19-2020

The first eight issues of this column series reported on starting a grass-roots industry/academia collaborative effort to prepare the next generation of PCB “experts.” Marc Carter shares progress from three September meetings and details some of the new potential connections that have begun to develop.

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

09-02-2020

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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Better to Light a Candle: Chapter Seven—Coping With COVID-19

04-21-2020

The cascading effects of the exploding COVID-19 pandemic have, as you’d expect, forced major changes in the educational experience at MTU (and generally at universities across the country), and put plans elsewhere on hold. Marc Carter outlines the ways MTU students, educators, and guest lecturers are coping with the unexpected “remote learning” as the new reality.

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Better to Light a Candle: Chapter Six—Spreading the Word

02-26-2020

In the first five issues of this column series, I reported on one grass-roots industry/academia collaborative effort to prepare the next generation of PCB “experts.” In "Chapter 6," Marc Carter provides a brief status 2020 reprise/expansion class at MTU and report on efforts to get similar local industry/academia partner classes started elsewhere.

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2019

Better to Light a Candle: Chapter Five—2020 Reprise of MTU PCB Course

12-11-2019

Continuing his series on the university course in PCB manufacturing at Michigan Technological University, Marc Carter provides some feedback in the form of testimonials from students who participated in the 2019 classes, as well as a preliminary look at the upcoming “new and improved” 2020 reprise/expansion class at MTU.

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Better to Light a Candle: Using Industry Standards as Another PWB Manufacturing Tool

09-27-2019

Some people will say, "Standards are so boring!" To that, I might respond, "Well, that's kind of the point." When you're in production manufacturing, a "boring" day (i.e., everything works smoothly with no disruptions, and everybody shares clear expectations) can be a welcome relief from your usual. But what should we do with all of these standards anyway?

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Better to Light a Candle: Chapter Four—Next Steps for Developing the Future Workforce

08-12-2019

This fourth installment of Marc Carter's column series will give the prospects and status of repeat (perhaps even expanded) classes at Michigan Tech, and report on developing contacts at other prospective university, industry, and government nodes for similar efforts to ensure basic printed circuit technology familiarity of college graduates over the next few years.

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Better to Light a Candle: Chapter 3—First-Year Recap of the PCB Fab Course at MTU

06-05-2019

In the third installment of this column series, Marc Carter acknowledges the many organizations and individuals that willingly and freely contributed their time, materials, and support to make this first “prototype” effort a success. This article also gives a sneak preview of some of the efforts underway to expand the efforts at MTU and to start similar grassroots, industry-academia supported programs elsewhere.

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Better to Light a Candle: Chapter 2—Introduction to PCB Fabrication

05-01-2019

As a reminder, “EE4800: Printed Circuit Board Fabrication” is a hands-on class intended to give engineering undergraduate students an introduction to the basics of printed circuit design, fabrication, and assembly, which started on January 14 of this year.

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Better to Light a Candle: Chapter 1—Prepping the Next Generation

01-11-2019

There has been a considerable amount of (electronic) ink and words shared in our industry bemoaning the graying-out of our industry and the growing shortage of skilled people at all levels. (See the May 2017 PCB007 Magazine column “Help Wanted—and How!” for just one example). As is usually the case, though, when all is said and done, more has been said than done.

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