In direct response to our members asking for help in addressing the most critical issue currently facing our industry—the skills gap—IPC’s education and training initiatives are undergoing significant change.
IPC is investing in the future by supporting our members’ workforce and training needs to meet the demands of a continually changing and advancing industry. With the creation of our Job Task Analysis Committee (JTA), we are collaborating with a group of industry subject matter experts tasked with the responsibility of defining a competency model for the electronics industry.
The major challenges facing our industry center around a lack of skilled workers, particularly in the PCB fabrication and EMS industries. According to Deloitte, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, it is estimated that 2,000,000 jobs will go unfilled this decade and 3,500,000 jobs will be needed in the next decade. With many skilled workers retiring from the workforce, often referred to as the “grey tsunami,” many companies will lose critical skills as individuals leave. We do not currently have strong work-study programs in the United States. Many students today show a lack of awareness of the high-quality jobs that are available in the industry and might have negative perceptions of manufacturing in general.
IPC has taken this issue head-on with a multi-pronged, demand-driven approach that will cover all aspects of skill building from middle school to adulthood. Through the JTA, we will focus on:
- STEM: Reaching out to students K–12
- The emerging workforce: Connecting us to four-year universities and technical colleges
- The current workforce: Putting us in touch with small, mid-size, and large manufacturing companies
We will be guided by IPC members based on market needs, identified skills, and workforce gaps. The goal is to inspire, educate, and inform the workforce of tomorrow.
Broadly, we plan to create competency-based learning models aligned with IPC standards and certifications that build on existing programs and expanding their reach. We will install pilot programs to rapidly test, validate, and scale, and establish metrics to set clear and measurable goals. We plan to connect the industry to federal, state, and local officials and educational institutions to create a partnership to help us build our workforce and ensure future students and workers that there are well-paid, challenging jobs available in manufacturing that can vigorously compete with other options available to job seekers. We believe IPC is uniquely positioned to serve as an intermediary to connect, convene, facilitate, and advocate for the manufacturing industry.
Our initial focus will be on specific jobs. According to an IPC study of the North American labor pool for electronics manufacturing in February 2015, the following jobs have been significantly impacted by the skills gap: soldering technicians, machine operators, skilled production line workers, SMT machine assembly, test, inspection, and quality control workers.
The JTA specifically needs your help to do the following: define key roles in the electronics industry and perform industry-driven job task analyses for each of these roles.
JTA Committee Goals
- Align IPC certification and education programs with the changing needs of industry.
- Develop clearly defined career pathways that promote avenues for growth.
- Aid the electronics industry in better identifying talent to fill critical job openings that are currently vacant.
- Provide the baseline information needed to create career guides for students, parents, and guidance counselors to introduce them to the exciting potential careers in the electronics industry.
- Produce a competency model for the electronics industry.
The JTA meets via Skype once or twice per quarter with subcommittee meetings held every month. Meetings last 90 minutes. We are reaching out to our members for their expertise and deep knowledge of the industry. We welcome your participation in this critical task. If you are unable to serve on the committee, we hope you would consider asking your HR representative to participate.
For further information, please contact David Hernandez, senior director of learning and professional development, at DavidHernandez@ipc.org.
John Mitchell is president and CEO of IPC—Association Connecting Electronics Industries. To read past columns or to contact Mitchell, click here.