The Right Approach: Finding the Next Generation of 'Board Rats'


Reading time ( words)

Introduction

Owners of printed circuit board shops across the country are united in their top concern for their businesses: finding new talent. While this problem crosses all industries, what is unique is the complexity and learning curve of our business.

What is a board rat?

We old-timers affectionately refer to ourselves as board rats; we are lifers in the industry who truly share a passion for building printed circuit boards. For most of us, this was one of our first full-time jobs, starting out sweeping floors, shearing laminate (yes, manually), sanding panels, and doing all the grunt work that “back in the day” meant we were paying our dues. We grew up with the business, could never imagine doing anything else, and advanced through the ranks by good old-fashioned hard work. Many went on to become industry leaders, which includes developing new technology, running plants or owning a shop.

Brain Drain

There is no question that America has an aging workforce, and once again this is neither unique to printed circuits, nor a new phenomenon. However, in my humble opinion, the talent issue facing PCB leaders today is the most challenging I have seen over my 40-year career. The aforementioned passion is the most troubling part of developing the next generation of PCB craftsmen. In fact, I had this very discussion recently with Mark, an old friend who owns a board shop.

As we spent some time catching up and talking about business, I asked Mark what kept him up at night.  He said, “Steve, that’s easy—people. I’ve got several key employees who have been with me since I started the company who are planning to retire in the next couple of years. I just don’t know how I am going to replace that talent.” Mark went on to lament that the younger people he brings in just do not “love boards like we do.” He told me about a recent hire who showed exceptional promise, was absorbing everything like a sponge, and who everyone had very high hopes for. After months of training, she just did not show up for work one day, and Mark never heard from her again. Unfortunately, this is not a one-off.

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

Share




Suggested Items

Engineering RF Dielectric Material to Enable 5G/6G Antenna Devices

04/11/2022 | Chudy Roosevelt Nwachukwu, ITEQ Corporation
Accurate characterization of frequency-dependent inhomogeneous dielectric material properties is key to the optimal design of high performance and cost-effective PCB antennas. These antennas will be required to enable the plethora of devices forecasted for 5G/6G communication. Therefore IT-88GMW, an advanced resin system reinforced with tightly woven thin glass fibers has been formulated to improve the Q-factor of interconnects and passive components fabricated on PCB laminates.

Improved Thermal Interface Materials For Cooling High-Power Electronics

03/31/2022 | Jeff Brandman, Aismalibar North America
Heat has been a significant concern in electronics since the beginning of the electronics age when hot glowing vacuum tubes were first used to receive and transmit data bits. The transistor and integrated circuit effectively solved that basic problem, but increases in integration resulted in increased concentration of heat, exacerbated by relentless increases in operating frequency. While improvements in electronics technology have been able to mitigate many thermal issues at chip level thanks to improved semiconductor designs devised to operate at lower voltages (thus requiring less energy) the thermal management challenge continues to vex electronic product developers.

Institute of Circuit Technology: A Novel Approach to Recycling PCBs

03/10/2022 | Pete Starkey, I-Connect007
A two-year project funded by an Innovate UK SMART Grant aims to reduce the impact of e-waste using naturally derived, biodegradable and nontoxic products. Those attending the webinar for the Institute of Circuit Technology’s annual meeting on March 2 learned more about the project, as well as statutory paperwork obligations of the UK REACH regulations. Following the formal business, ICT Chair Emma Hudson introduced and moderated this technical webinar.



Copyright © 2022 I-Connect007. All rights reserved.