Foundations of the Future: Optimizing Engagement Through Webinars


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charlene-gunter-du-plessis.jpgOne of the key objectives of the IPC Education Foundation is to drive engagement among high school and college students. Creating those interactions fosters interest, provides information, and ultimately encourages students toward careers in the electronics industry.

However, that became more challenging these past two years as face-to-face interactions were made almost impossible. Rather than use our regular approaches to interact with students, we turned to technology for help.

Through a series of webinars, such as our Friday Forums, we have created opportunities in informal settings for industry professionals to provide our network of students, educators, and other professionals with information on career and technical topics related to the electronics industry.

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The benefits of hosting a webinar far outweigh the planning side of it. The term “webinar” is an abbreviated form of “web seminar,” and that is exactly what it sounds like: a seminar that takes place online, rather than in a physical location. The virtual nature of webinars allows attendees to join from anywhere, something that was advantageous during the pandemic. To support students in high school and college by sharing information about careers in the electronics manufacturing industry, the IPC Education Foundation wanted to ensure that, irrespective of the current academic landscape, sharing the insights, knowledge, and stories from experts must continue enabling students to conveniently attend.

Counting the Benefits
One tremendous benefit we discovered was we could record these sessions, allowing teachers to stream them during class time, especially when the live sessions did not occur during a convenient time. The recorded session live online forever, making the rounds to new places and building our brand awareness. (To view previous webinars, please visit the IPC Education Foundation YouTube Channel.) If the webinar platform is mobile-friendly, even better; your guests can access the event from anywhere, even on the go. Technology advancements to host larger webinars have assisted so many organizations, because they allow for personalized features that promote the speakers, panelists, topics, as well as sending out reminders. These special invitations and notices are valuable as they run almost automatically when scheduled in advance.

Fostering New Ways to Interact
Hosting a webinar can take on various levels of interaction. Some are extremely informative: you almost just listen with no interaction like an online lecture. Others have live polls to gather feedback or information instantly, a live chat function that allows for interaction between attendees, and a Q&A option. An open forum set-up allows the participants to ask questions and have presenters or panelists answer them right away; it’s feedback almost on the spot. This builds a level of authority as the speaker doesn’t have time to check their notes to construct an answer. The authenticity of the engagement is truly priceless and invaluable. It is important for the Foundation to have a balance among these settings, and we are proud of the work we’re currently doing to create awareness and access to the various career paths at many companies. Hosting regular webinars has led to an identified community or network, because one tends to recognize the regular attendees on a recurring basis. Just this year, we’ve seen an increase in attendance, which has reached nearly 2,500 students just through our webinars.

One other benefit is that webinars support the host organization by enriching their content, enhancing their online presence, and building or maintaining relationships with attendees. The presenters and panelist become part of your support network and continue to be in-the-know of our strategy and objectives. We also know that the speakers, panelists, presenters have an in-return benefit, if they wish to make use of it, as they can add the experience to their resume as part of extra-curricular activities or even volunteer work.

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Friday Forums, Career & Tech Discussions
Our webinar series, Friday Forums, continue monthly. This event is an informal, high-engagement Q&A discussion and usually occurs the last Friday of every month. The other webinar is referred to as Career & Tech Discussions which is hosted by industry experts covering various career and tech topics to deep dive into a relevant topic for 30 to 45 minutes, followed by Q&A with our speaker(s). These topics include interview skills, resume preparation, refining your soft skills, how to interact with your manager, time management, dress for success, or any specific industry facing topic such as schematic design, 3D printing, conscientious engineering, etc. These webinars start as a formal presentation, followed by Q&A from the audience. Please visit our website for more details.

We have hosted industry representatives from many IPC member-companies. One of our most recent presenters was from CAES. The presenters included HR, a production manager, and a manufacturing engineer, who provided an overview of the company, what career advancement opportunities exist for students in high school and college, personal career stories, and what students can do to enter the industry, guidance and tips. They sponsored the Career Round Table Discussion at the IPC STEM Outreach Event at the IPC APEX EXPO earlier this year. Please visit our website to learn more about this event and watch a video of the presentation.

In another presentation, Patrick Crawford, IPC manager of design standards and related industry programs, shared information on 3D printing, with an overview of the methods, materials, and machines; how to 3D print at home; and how 3D printing is used in industry.

The following engineers shared highlights of their careers, their academic backgrounds, and their career paths into the industry to inspire up-and-coming talent. They are professionals and we value their time commitment to answer student and teacher career-related questions. Thank you to Maya Chiesa, materials and process engineer at Lockheed Martin; Tony Feldmeier, materials engineer at Honeywell Aerospace; Sarah Kolak, hardware developer at IBM; Brandon Davis, materials and process engineer at The Aerospace Corporation; Paige Fiet, process engineer at TTM Technologies; and Tyler Siebert, senior manufacturing engineer at Lockheed Martin.

If you wish to participate in hosting a webinar or participate on a panel as an expert, please reach out to me.

Charlene Gunter du Plessis is the senior director of the IPC Education Foundation.

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