Helping the electronics industry fill needed positions
One of the biggest challenges in the wire harness industry, and indeed the electronics industry in general, is how to fill the pipeline with professional engineers and technicians we will no doubt need in the coming years. IPC is making a bold attempt at solving this problem through the creation of the IPC Education Foundation.
Established in 2020, the foundation has the stated mission to “create AWARENESS of the careers the electronics manufacturing industry has to offer and promote opportunities to students in high school and technical college/university by providing them ACCESS to knowledge and content and CONNECTIONS with people and companies.”
WHN connected with Wendy Gaston, Business Development Manager, Charlene Gunter, Senior Director of Education, and Aaron Birney, Chapters Coordinator, to give us an overview of the foundation.
Wendy began by saying the non-profit is working with two- and four-year colleges, trade schools, high schools and, eventually, junior high schools. “The goal is to give students access to knowledge, content and connections in the broader electronics industry. Students don’t know what they don’t know, and they are being asked to make decisions about the rest of their lives at a young age,” she stressed. IPC seeks to give students access to opportunities in the industry and expand their awareness of career avenues they probably didn’t know existed.
Charlene sharpened the focus a bit further. “The overarching strategy is based on two key words from our mission statement, ACCESS and CONNECTIONS,” she said. “The Foundation is not necessarily focused on education in that there is no product or curriculum. IPC has the educational products to upskill and train professionals. Instead, the Foundation is there to create awareness about the careers in the industry and provide direct access to companies for current and potential students.” She did mention there is an educational component with introductory level electronics courses.
Charlene then detailed some of the many avenues IPCEF takes to achieve their goals. They have two tracks of webinars designed to engage students. “The last Friday of every month we do Friday Forums where the team brings together speakers who are representatives from the industry to talk about their journey, what the barriers were and what they like and don’t like about their job. Aaron likes to call it ‘a day in the life,’ and they give great guidance to the students.” She mentioned that teachers and professors actually sign up their classes and often ask probing questions and spur conversation themselves.
In the middle of the month, the team hosts a Career & Tech Series where they focus on soft skills, like how to prepare a good resume or how to land a job in the industry. They will also answer questions like how to add skills such as 3D printing or schematic design. Both opportunities offer speakers and companies a great opportunity to highlight their organization or specific industry through participation.
Aaron spends his time building dedicated relationships with schools and universities. “So far it’s been mostly at the college level and we’ve got relationships with about 60 schools across the United States and a few in Canada. We don’t have any high schools yet, but that is coming very soon,” he said.
In addition to the educational component Charlene mentioned, Aaron spoke about the other opportunities the foundation offers. “The IPC Education Foundation provides scholarships and awards that support skill pathways and prepare students to start a meaningful career in the electronics manufacturing and assembly industry,” he mentioned.
Aaron also revealed that IPCEF awarded $38,000 in scholarships in 2021 and is projecting to outpace that number this year. Additional money is awarded to recognize student members’ leadership capabilities and ability to plan and/or host successful engagement initiatives for their chapter members. There are also competitions held at trade events for special skills like soldering.
IPCEF Needs YOUR Involvement
There are many ways you or your company can get involved. IPCEF has many sponsorship opportunities available. Acknowledgement opportunities exist through various platforms, like website presence, blog posts and social media outreach. Other sponsorship opportunities the team highlighted are branding and content exposure through workshops and webinars, named scholarships and awards, underwriting an IPC Student Chapter, or involvement and presence at IPC specific events, receptions & competitions.
Whenever Wendy speaks to folks about the foundation, they are eager to get involved. “I’ve never had anyone say they were not interested. Everybody wants to help, and everybody sees the need, especially in the electronic industry, but they don’t know the next step. I think the best step is to pick up the phone or send us an email and let us know you’re interested.”
IPC has a massive company database and the team stressed they hope to build the relationships and be a funnel from the schools to fill these much needed technical and engineering positions. If you’d like to get involved, you can contact Wendy at [email protected]. For more details, jump on IPCEF.org. Look for more exciting news about IPCEF in the next issue of WHN!