One World, One Industry: Skilled Talent—Can We Meet Rising Demand?

December 2007 marked the start of the Great Recession, which was followed by the loss of more than 8 million jobs, half the value of the Dow Jones 500, and trillions of dollars in retirement accounts. One decade later, America’s economy experienced 3% growth[1], building on one of the longest economic expansions in the United States since World War II[2]. In 2018, the U.S. GDP is expected to continue its rise, while unemployment rates are expected to drop further. Experts agree that the global economy is also showing signs of strengthening.

The Economist Intelligencer[3] attributes this to lax monetary policy around the world and accelerated growth in China, Japan, and the Euro zone.

Naturally, this growth is expected to buoy the manufacturing industry. In fact, our industry is forecast to increase faster than the general economy[4]. A recent survey[5] by IPC revealed a bullish outlook for most segments of the electronics industry, especially for equipment manufacturers and PCB fabricators. Although this progress is promising, a major challenge looms over us: Does our industry have enough skilled talent to meet rising demands and does this talent have the right skills?

According to a study by the Manufacturing Institute, over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs are expected to become available in the United States. But more than 2 million of those jobs will remain unfilled due to a lack of available skilled talent. Another survey[6] of IPC companies found that most are having a hard time recruiting qualified production workers, and an even harder time finding qualified engineers and other technical professionals.

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Executives also noted[4] a lack of problem-solving skills, basic technical training, and math skills. This common lack of foundational skills has an unfortunate impact on manufacturing companies across the nation.

To address this issue, IPC offered its support for the Apprenticeship and Jobs Training Act (S.1352)[7] as well as the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2353)[8]. Both aim to support career education programs which prepare workers to fill highly skilled manufacturing jobs. Previously, I’ve written[9] that combating the skills gap would be no small feat. But, we can start by taking a critical look at our education system. For several years, U.S. high school students have ranked below average when it comes to math and science. Only 40% of U.S. high schools offer advanced science courses like physics, according to an Education Week Research Center analysis. Among the students that  pursue a STEM major in college, only half actually pursue a STEM career post-graduation.

These statistics are a stark reminder that science, technology, engineering and math education should be a national priority. It is our duty to introduce STEM topics as early as possible, both at home and in the classroom. To that end, during IPC APEX EXPO 2018, we will introduce a STEM outreach program[10] for high school students. This year, students from two San Diego high schools will have the chance to attend IPC APEX EXPO, learn about various career options within the electronics manufacturing industry, take part in panel discussions with industry experts, and participate in a private tour of the show floor.

Organizations like the STEM Education Coalition[11], of which IPC is a proud member, are working to inform federal and state policymakers on the vital role that STEM education plays in the future of economic success.

Among its core policy principals, the STEM Education Coalition believes that effective policies that promote STEM education should be a bipartisan national priority. Currently, educational policies such as the “Common Core” standards, which have been adopted by more than 40 states, cover only language and math, not science. There must be a state-based effort to implement not just Common Core Math but also Next Generation Science Standards, among other college- and career-ready standards in STEM fields.

Culturally, there is a long-standing, but false, notion that the only “successful” education is a traditional four-year degree from a university. While a growing number of colleges across the country are offering world-class STEM majors, technical and trade schools are also a viable option for students. Many noble and lucrative careers can be had by those who learn trades and technical specialties. To ensure that America’s economy remains competitive on a global scale, we must raise the educational bar and build a stronger emphasis on STEM education and technical training.

In an effort to better address a growing skills gap, and to ensure access to relevant training for a larger global population, IPC launched IPC EDGE[12], a new cloud-based learning management system in July 2016. IPC EDGE delivers the education needed to acquire and develop the competitive skills necessary to excel in the electronics industry. Through white papers, webinars, IPC standards, skill development and foundation courses, users gain the flexibility to learn the skills needed to advance their careers and improve the industry. Currently, IPC EDGE consists of dozens of IPC’s most popular courses. This library is continually growing as additional courses are created regularly. From entry level personnel to executives, IPC EDGE users are provided with knowledge that will support learning goals that applied directly to their work. This includes preparation for CIS (Certified IPC Specialist) certification, the most recognized IPC certification in the electronics industry.

IPC EDGE courses instruct on topics such as: Electrostatic Discharge (ESD), Control for Electronics Assembly, Introduction to Hand Soldering, FOD Prevention in Electronics Assembly, Surface Mount Solder Joint Quality Standards, Counterfeit Components, and Component Identification, among many others. New courses are in development to provide the knowledge and skills needed to prepare the next generation of workers for success in the electronics industry and close today’s skill gap.

References

1. U.S. third-quarter economic growth fastest in three years, Reuters, Nov. 29, 2017.
2. Current U.S. economic recovery may end up as longest ever, MarketWatch, July 19, 2016.
3. The pace of growth in the global economy is unlikely to be sustained, The Economist, December 13, 2017.
4. The Skills Gap in the U.S. Manufacturing, 2015 and Beyond, Deloitte Manufacturing Institute.
5. IPC Pulse Survey Reveals Bullish Outlook for Equipment and PCB Manufacturers, October 26, 2017.
6. IPCs U.S. Skills Gap Study Reveals Skills and Qualifications in Short Supply, April 27, 2017.
7. 115th Congress/Senate Bill S.1352 – Apprenticeship and Jobs Training Act of 2017.
8. H.R. 5587–Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act.
9. One World, One Industry: Three Ways to Close the Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing.
10. IPC to Launch STEM Outreach Program at IPC APEX EXPO 2018.
11. STEM Education Coalition.
12. IPC EDGE.

John Mitchell is president and CEO of IPC—Association Connecting Electronics Industries. To read past columns or to contact Mitchell, click here.

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2018

One World, One Industry: Skilled Talent—Can We Meet Rising Demand?

04-02-2018

In 2018, the U.S. GDP is expected to continue its rise, while unemployment rates are expected to drop further. Experts agree that the global economy is also showing signs of strengthening.

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One World, One Industry: Electronics Industry Advocacy More Important than Ever

02-23-2018

From the Americas to Europe, Asia and beyond, the future of the electronics manufacturing industry is shaped in many ways by government policies. This will be true like never before in 2018, as legislators and regulators the world over are eyeing policy decisions on issues such as technology research and development, taxes, workforce skills, and the environment.

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2017

One World, One Industry: Connecting the Dots Between Manufacturing and Community

11-24-2017

Across the United States, the first Friday in October represents the annual celebration of Manufacturing Day. On this date, manufacturers and supporters come together to celebrate the longevity and success of our industry. Since 2012, Manufacturing Day has served as a chance to learn about the businesses that thrive in our communities and contribute greatly to the economy.

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One World, One Industry: Pursuing New Solutions to the Electronics Sectors’ Skills Gap

11-15-2017

In a recent survey of our U.S. member companies[1], most said they have a hard time finding local talent to run their businesses. Respondents cited many essential skills that are in short supply, but the most common ones are soldering for production jobs, and engineers with industry experience, especially in process, test, and quality control. Making matters even more challenging, as new innovations emerge, new skills requirements emerge as well.

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One World, One Industry: The Future of Electronics in the Automotive Industry

09-15-2017

Automotive electronics is not a new topic. While there is a trend for both performance and luxury electronics, many of the recent conversations tend to focus on self-driving/autonomous vehicles. While the technology is exciting, it is just the tip of the iceberg.

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One World, One Industry: India Makes Manufacturing Gains to Participate in a Global Economy

08-18-2017

The manufacturing industry is truly a global one. While the past few decades have seen the rise of manufacturing in China and countries throughout Europe and South America, the last 10 years have been marked by significant progress in India. While the greater Asian area has flourished, India has been hampered by many factors including a struggling infrastructure.

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One World, One Industry: Three Ways to Close the Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing

07-12-2017

The skills gap is a chronic problem in the manufacturing sector. Most manufacturing companies have a hard time aligning the talent needed to run their businesses with the talent that is available to work locally. And as new innovations emerge, new skills requirements emerge as well.

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One World, One Industry: Having an Impact from the Shop Floor to the Halls of Government

07-07-2017

When you have concerns about government regulations and policies that impact your business, what can you do? Among several options, a direct approach is one of the best: Reach out to your elected officials and share your concerns. The odds are good that they will be responsive and look into ways of helping out a hometown business.

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China—A Critical Partner for Trade

06-09-2017

Count me among those business leaders who thought the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was on the right track last year and would have brought significant benefits to all nations, including the United States. Before President Trump withdrew the United States from the TPP trade negotiations, I had argued it would have unified the world’s most dynamic economic region—bringing together developed and developing countries that collectively represent 825 million consumers and 40% of the world’s economic output.

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One World, One Industry: 100 Days In—President Trump and a Better Manufacturing Policy

04-19-2017

To truly increase the number of American manufacturing jobs, President Trump should support increased investment in research and development for advanced manufacturing, promote and fund STEM education in primary and secondary schools, and build stronger apprenticeship programs. It is this type of investment—in human capital and technology—that will truly help make American manufacturing great again.

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One World, One Industry: IPC’s Global Policy Framework for 2017—Smart Advocacy for the Industry

04-10-2017

As President Trump was being sworn in several weeks ago, and as the new Congress was getting down to work, IPC released its Global Policy Framework for 2017. As we work to represent more than 3,800 member facilities across the electronics industry’s global supply chain, IPC will adhere to this framework to guide our policy work in the coming months. All of our advocacy efforts are aimed at fostering an environment in which electronics manufacturers and their suppliers can thrive and grow.

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One World, One Industry: Emerging Technology, Training for the Future, and the Next Industrial Revolution

02-13-2017

Technology isn’t just a tangible entity. It moves beyond what we can see, feel, and touch. It is ideas and theories. It includes philosophy and risks. In a way, technology itself is like the stock market. Different industries hedge their bets on emerging trends. These trends develop into useful products that change our world.

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2016

One World, One Industry: Strengthening Your Value Proposition to Boost Organization Success

12-16-2016

John Mitchell's new column's title says it all: One World, One Industry. In the coming columns, the IPC president will be covering issues affecting the entire global electronics industry supply chain with specific expertise on global standards, education, advocacy and solutions.

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One World, One Industry: Six Leadership Lessons from 20 Years in the Electronics Industry

11-07-2016

The orchestra conductor is an apt metaphor for the successful leader. Effective leadership often boils down to the ability to inspire others (the symphony) to their best work, while keeping and driving the overall vision of the organization (the musical score).

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One World, One Industry: Voting — A Civic Duty and Industry Opportunity

10-17-2016

On Tuesday, November 8, more than 240 million people in the United States will have the opportunity to go to the polls and vote, make their voices heard in government, and influence the direction of public policy for years to come. Much of the world is closely watching with interest in this major U.S. election.

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