Editor’s Note: This column is part of a series on the university course in PCB manufacturing at Michigan Technological University (MTU). This class will serve as the prototype of additional industry/academia local collaborative education/training classes in other parts of North America.
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.” Individuals and companies from all over the U.S. came together to pass on PCB experience through the prototype of a hands-on design, build, assemble, and test opportunity at MTU.
Expanding on this prototype effort, we are networking with additional similar candidate groups for local academia/industry teams attempting to replicate this success at other “nodes” around the country. Each of these industry/academia collaborations must be tailored to local workforce needs, academic capabilities, and the resources available to become self-sustaining. We’ve also established a working relationship with an exciting like-minded effort operating in the greater Cleveland area.
In this issue, I’ll share progress from three September meetings and detail some of the new potential connections that have begun to develop.
On September 2, we had our first meeting with representatives attending from the DoD’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (earlier meetings with industry and academia partners had occurred). The IBAS team (through their Cornerstone OTA mechanism, administered out of Rock Island Arsenal) agreed to provide some logistical and travel expense help to aid the startup process at new sites, as it matches up with their National Imperative for Industrial Skills .
Army and IBAS personnel briefed the group on the IBAS/Cornerstone perspective and aspirations for this and other groups working in this direction. Clarification of the logistics and limits on their participation was key to that discussion. Throughout this month’s meetings, we heard (repeatedly) that academic contacts are swamped just now, trying to handle class startups in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions.
We heard status updates on efforts begun in Tucson to explore a possible program at the University of Arizona, spearheaded by Russ Adams of Prototron Circuits. We’re reaching out to see if the local Raytheon operations can assist here. SMTA is helping as they can but are somewhat limited in that the nearest active chapter is in Phoenix.
There are more boots on the ground in the Boston area since the local SMTA chapter is led by one of our participants, Peter Bigelow of IMI-PCB. He continues his connection meetings at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. In Tampa/St. Pete, Girish Wable of Jabil continues reaching out to the University of South Florida. In parallel, he has begun to identify alternative academic organizations both locally and in Melbourne. SMTA has chapters in both regions.
On September 16, we had a strong introduction to the eight-year-old MEMS manufacturing program established at the Lorain County Community College (west of Cleveland) by Dr. Jimmy Vanderford. This was the first exposure most of us in the group had to this well-established and local-industry-supported program, and we’re excited to explore how these efforts can provide mutual support, SME resources, etc.
Dan Gamota of Jabil and others in the group expressed support for the development of virtual alternatives, depending on conditions at the various sites around the country in the coming months. Fortunately, at least around the course content at the Michigan Tech/Calumet Electronics prototype, most of the industry SME lecture material is already available for remote presentations. One-third of the first year’s lectures and two-thirds (post-COVID-19) of the second-year lectures were virtual. We’ve begun an inventory of 2019 and 2020 presentation materials on file to identify any gaps.
Between the major group status updates, individual side meetings to address local issues have begun. An important one on September 22 established a working relationship between this effort and the educational/workforce development efforts underway at NextFlex, headed up by Emily McGrath.
On September 30, McGrath and her team briefed this group on their programs (existing and under development), timeframes, and milestones. There appear to be significant opportunities for collaboration and mutual support in the post-secondary segment this team focuses on, though there are significant revisions underway in the NextFlex offerings in that area, which could affect timing. The virtual booth video for presentation at SMTAI was shared with the team, as was an additional link to a video presentation on the LCCC “MEMS” program .
As you can probably tell, we’re excited at the potential and variety of chances we’ve identified to help groom the next generation workforce of electronics manufacturing. It’s early days, and there will be missteps and reversals, but we can see the momentum building.
If you’d like to be a part of this effort, or if we could help you with a local project in electronics manufacturing workforce development along different lines, please reach out to a member of the team. For further information, you can reach me at email@example.com.
- GovTribe, “Cornerstone Initiative: CS-20-1601 National Imperative for Industrial Skills,” January 17, 2020.
- SMTA, “Jumpstart 2020—SMTA International: Marc Carter-Electronic Manufacturing Technical Education Project,” September 28, 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 milaero 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 milaero material suppliers.