Help Wanted—and How!


Reading time ( words)

It seems that I am extra-sensitive to topics in the news that coincide with an upcoming magazine topic—I see headlines in newspapers, suddenly the subject comes up in conversations, in email, and even in other media. And I think, is it just me or is everyone talking about this at the same time?

This was ever more so for this issue we’re calling Help Wanted! But in this case, it wasn’t just because I was sensitized to the topic. Everyone is talking about the graying of our industry and the lack of qualified applicants for jobs ranging from manufacturing personnel to engineers and even management. Who will take over when we retire? Who will run the PCB fabrication business in another five, 10, or 15 years? Are the millennials we keep hearing about going to pick up the slack or not? (You don’t want to hear that again, do you?)

Way back in January you may recall the results of our 2017 industry hiring survey, where more than half of respondents planned to bring on new employees this year, and half of those were talking the first six months. It appeared that most of the hires would be for technical, operations and sales personnel, which we felt pointed to an expansion in the industry. But the greatest challenge by far that respondents pointed to was a shortage of skilled or qualified applicants.

One thing we can learn from reading or watching news is that it’s not just our segment of manufacturing that has this problem. It is pretty much the entire manufacturing industry that is struggling to find people to work in their factories and engineers to keep them running.

What to do about this phenomenon was the topic at the IPC APEX EXPO show in February. It seemed no matter what topic a conversation started with, it ended up with the concern on everyone’s mind: how difficult it is to find good people. We put an ad in (wherever) and got no responses; process and quality engineers are nowhere to be found; we hire someone, they quit in short order.

In the March issue of The PCB Design Magazine, Editor Andy Shaughnessy’s column was a great call to action for us all. In a nutshell, we have a problem finding talent in our industry and it’s time to stop complaining and go out and do something about it—and a good place to start is with your local high school or trade school. Andy put the onus on all of us to start getting young people interested in engineering and manufacturing even before they get to college and choose a major.

I talked with several people on this subject and a few of the conversations are included in this issue. Theirs were not lists of complaints or sighs of resignation, but rather they offered solutions that work for them. In addition, many of our columnists felt inspired to speak about related issues like leadership, employee recognition, with several offering concrete actions to help. So, let me tell you about our lineup for May. We start out with a column by Steve Williams of The Right Approach—who started his career as a “board rat.” In his straightforward yet eloquent way, he presents the problem that our industry faces of attracting talent.

Next, we have conversations with the presidents of two PCB companies and a column by a third. The first is with Peter Bigelow, of IMI Inc., based in New England. He is followed by a talk with Dave Ryder of Prototron, with two locations in the Western United States. Columnist Sam Sangani of PNC Inc. (East Coast) follows with yet another viewpoint. These three fabricators are dealing with the same problem, but with somewhat differing perspectives and  methods to go about solving it.

Right after this is a very interesting conversation with Doug Pauls of Rockwell-Collins. My original intention was to talk with him about his recent election to the Raymond A. Pritchard Hall of Fame, but our conversation barely got there and we talked at length about their roadshow to high schools, which has shown results.

Since part of what attracts people to a company is the leadership within, we have Dave Dibble of Dibble Leaders, and Dan Beaulieu, DB Consulting, discussing leadership, systems thinking and how the old top-down style of management does not work.

Launch Communications’ Barry Lee Cohen devoted his column to the subject of employee recognition. He stresses the importance of a consistent, planned program and the necessity of full participation by management. He notes that the way you recognize achievement is just as important as doing it.

In the continuing quest to learn how more companies are finding and keeping good people, I spent time with the Aimee Miller and Rebecca Brennan, in the HR department of sister companies Compunetix and Compunetics. Their hiring standards are high, with most positions requiring at least an associate’s degree, but their benefits are excellent and employees have advancement opportunities so that longevity of employees is not just because they are graying.

Columnist Keith Sellers discusses employment problems—and solutions—from both sides of the fence, recalling his own job search out of college. He offers advice for both the employer and the prospective employee.

And, as luck would have it, I met a young gentleman while cruising one of the local SMTA Expos. Amitron’s Matt Hammesfahr is a (drum roll) millennial who started in our industry a few years ago and is fast becoming a top salesperson for his company. How does he do it and what does he have to say? Go ahead; read it. Wrapping up the monthly topic part of the magazine is a conversation with IPC’s Dave Bergman and Kris Roberson. They lay out IPC’s training-to-standards programs, talk about the new EDGE online training, and make a request to PCB fabricators: Tell us what you need.

True to form, we have a couple of technical items for you. Mike Carano, RBP Chemical Technology, presents a troubleshooting guide on hole-wall desmear complete with photos of defects and a list of probable causes.

Regular columnist Todd Kolmodin, Gardien Services USA, outdoes himself with a very detailed technical column on flying probe testing versus the IPC test method. You may not realize that this is not as simple as it sounds. I guarantee you will learn plenty from this article.

Last, but certainly not least, IPC’s John Mitchell pulls us in another direction as he discusses international trade and the ever-growing globalization of supply chains. As always, his column is thoughtful and thought-provoking, as he makes the case for multilateral free trade agreements and offers a few words of caution to our government regarding tariffs and other import barriers, especially with China.

Next month, we will switch gears entirely and turn our attention to the world of embedded technology—those inside our printed circuit boards. Learn about the challenges and solutions along with practical applications. Learn more and the increasing demand for embedded passive and active components to save board real estate and improve yields.

What? You don’t know when the magazine is available? Time to subscribe so it will be delivered to your inbox the moment it’s published and you will be up on the latest.

Patricia Goldman is a 30+ year veteran of the PCB industry, with experience in a variety of areas, including R&D of imaging technologies, wet process engineering, and sales and marketing of PWB chemistry. Active with IPC since 1981, Goldman has chaired numerous committees and served as TAEC chairman, and is also the co-author of numerous technical papers. To contact Goldman, click here.

To read the full version of this article which appeared in the May 2017 issue of The PCB Magazine, click here.

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