Better to Light a Candle: Chapter Nine—Growing Interest Around the Country

Editor’s Note: This column is part of a series on the university course in PCB manufacturing at Michigan Technological University (MTU). This class will serve as the prototype of additional industry/academia local collaborative education/training classes in other parts of North America.

The first eight issues of this column series reported on starting a grass-roots industry/academia collaborative effort to prepare the next generation of PCB “experts.” Individuals and companies from all over the U.S. came together to pass on PCB experience through the prototype of a hands-on design, build, assemble, and test opportunity at MTU.

Expanding on this prototype effort, we are networking with additional similar candidate groups for local academia/industry teams attempting to replicate this success at other “nodes” around the country. Each of these industry/academia collaborations must be tailored to local workforce needs, academic capabilities, and the resources available to become self-sustaining. We’ve also established a working relationship with an exciting like-minded effort operating in the greater Cleveland area.

In this issue, I’ll share progress from three September meetings and detail some of the new potential connections that have begun to develop.

Current News

On September 2, we had our first meeting with representatives attending from the DoD’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (earlier meetings with industry and academia partners had occurred). The IBAS team (through their Cornerstone OTA mechanism, administered out of Rock Island Arsenal) agreed to provide some logistical and travel expense help to aid the startup process at new sites, as it matches up with their National Imperative for Industrial Skills [1].

Army and IBAS personnel briefed the group on the IBAS/Cornerstone perspective and aspirations for this and other groups working in this direction. Clarification of the logistics and limits on their participation was key to that discussion. Throughout this month’s meetings, we heard (repeatedly) that academic contacts are swamped just now, trying to handle class startups in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions.

We heard status updates on efforts begun in Tucson to explore a possible program at the University of Arizona, spearheaded by Russ Adams of Prototron Circuits. We’re reaching out to see if the local Raytheon operations can assist here. SMTA is helping as they can but are somewhat limited in that the nearest active chapter is in Phoenix.

There are more boots on the ground in the Boston area since the local SMTA chapter is led by one of our participants, Peter Bigelow of IMI-PCB. He continues his connection meetings at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. In Tampa/St. Pete, Girish Wable of Jabil continues reaching out to the University of South Florida. In parallel, he has begun to identify alternative academic organizations both locally and in Melbourne. SMTA has chapters in both regions.

On September 16, we had a strong introduction to the eight-year-old MEMS manufacturing program established at the Lorain County Community College (west of Cleveland) by Dr. Jimmy Vanderford. This was the first exposure most of us in the group had to this well-established and local-industry-supported program, and we’re excited to explore how these efforts can provide mutual support, SME resources, etc.

Dan Gamota of Jabil and others in the group expressed support for the development of virtual alternatives, depending on conditions at the various sites around the country in the coming months. Fortunately, at least around the course content at the Michigan Tech/Calumet Electronics prototype, most of the industry SME lecture material is already available for remote presentations. One-third of the first year’s lectures and two-thirds (post-COVID-19) of the second-year lectures were virtual. We’ve begun an inventory of 2019 and 2020 presentation materials on file to identify any gaps.

Between the major group status updates, individual side meetings to address local issues have begun. An important one on September 22 established a working relationship between this effort and the educational/workforce development efforts underway at NextFlex, headed up by Emily McGrath.

On September 30, McGrath and her team briefed this group on their programs (existing and under development), timeframes, and milestones. There appear to be significant opportunities for collaboration and mutual support in the post-secondary segment this team focuses on, though there are significant revisions underway in the NextFlex offerings in that area, which could affect timing. The virtual booth video for presentation at SMTAI was shared with the team, as was an additional link to a video presentation on the LCCC “MEMS” program [2].

As you can probably tell, we’re excited at the potential and variety of chances we’ve identified to help groom the next generation workforce of electronics manufacturing. It’s early days, and there will be missteps and reversals, but we can see the momentum building.

Get Involved

If you’d like to be a part of this effort, or if we could help you with a local project in electronics manufacturing workforce development along different lines, please reach out to a member of the team. For further information, you can reach me at


  1. GovTribe, “Cornerstone Initiative: CS-20-1601 National Imperative for Industrial Skills,” January 17, 2020.
  2. SMTA, “Jumpstart 2020—SMTA International: Marc Carter-Electronic Manufacturing Technical Education Project,” September 28, 2020.

Marc Carter has worked in the electronics interconnection industry since 1984 in a variety of roles in fabrication and assembly materials, processes, environmental compliance, and supply chain management activities around the world. He has had the honor and privilege of working with and learning from many of the true giants of this industry in multiple functions over many years. His experience includes a major milaero OEM, field and development work at materials suppliers to the printed circuit industry, and an educational stint as the sole proprietor of a manufacturer’s agency representing multiple high-tech milaero material suppliers.



Better to Light a Candle: Chapter Nine—Growing Interest Around the Country


The first eight issues of this column series reported on starting a grass-roots industry/academia collaborative effort to prepare the next generation of PCB “experts.” Marc Carter shares progress from three September meetings and details some of the new potential connections that have begun to develop.

View Story

Better to Light a Candle: Chapter 8—Expanding the Model in This New Reality


Marc Carter posts an update on the collaborative grassroots effort to prepare the next generation of PCB “experts" by outlining the progress of efforts to replicate the MTU “prototype” at other industry-academia “nodes” around the country.

View Story

Better to Light a Candle: Chapter Seven—Coping With COVID-19


The cascading effects of the exploding COVID-19 pandemic have, as you’d expect, forced major changes in the educational experience at MTU (and generally at universities across the country), and put plans elsewhere on hold. Marc Carter outlines the ways MTU students, educators, and guest lecturers are coping with the unexpected “remote learning” as the new reality.

View Story

Better to Light a Candle: Chapter Six—Spreading the Word


In the first five issues of this column series, I reported on one grass-roots industry/academia collaborative effort to prepare the next generation of PCB “experts.” In "Chapter 6," Marc Carter provides a brief status 2020 reprise/expansion class at MTU and report on efforts to get similar local industry/academia partner classes started elsewhere.

View Story


Better to Light a Candle: Chapter Five—2020 Reprise of MTU PCB Course


Continuing his series on the university course in PCB manufacturing at Michigan Technological University, Marc Carter provides some feedback in the form of testimonials from students who participated in the 2019 classes, as well as a preliminary look at the upcoming “new and improved” 2020 reprise/expansion class at MTU.

View Story

Better to Light a Candle: Using Industry Standards as Another PWB Manufacturing Tool


Some people will say, "Standards are so boring!" To that, I might respond, "Well, that's kind of the point." When you're in production manufacturing, a "boring" day (i.e., everything works smoothly with no disruptions, and everybody shares clear expectations) can be a welcome relief from your usual. But what should we do with all of these standards anyway?

View Story

Better to Light a Candle: Chapter Four—Next Steps for Developing the Future Workforce


This fourth installment of Marc Carter's column series will give the prospects and status of repeat (perhaps even expanded) classes at Michigan Tech, and report on developing contacts at other prospective university, industry, and government nodes for similar efforts to ensure basic printed circuit technology familiarity of college graduates over the next few years.

View Story

Better to Light a Candle: Chapter 3—First-Year Recap of the PCB Fab Course at MTU


In the third installment of this column series, Marc Carter acknowledges the many organizations and individuals that willingly and freely contributed their time, materials, and support to make this first “prototype” effort a success. This article also gives a sneak preview of some of the efforts underway to expand the efforts at MTU and to start similar grassroots, industry-academia supported programs elsewhere.

View Story

Better to Light a Candle: Chapter 2—Introduction to PCB Fabrication


As a reminder, “EE4800: Printed Circuit Board Fabrication” is a hands-on class intended to give engineering undergraduate students an introduction to the basics of printed circuit design, fabrication, and assembly, which started on January 14 of this year.

View Story

Better to Light a Candle: Chapter 1—Prepping the Next Generation


There has been a considerable amount of (electronic) ink and words shared in our industry bemoaning the graying-out of our industry and the growing shortage of skilled people at all levels. (See the May 2017 PCB007 Magazine column “Help Wanted—and How!” for just one example). As is usually the case, though, when all is said and done, more has been said than done.

View Story
Copyright © 2021 I-Connect007. All rights reserved.