There is no doubt there is a shortage of young people in our business. As we all get older, the challenge of finding young people to replace us is getting more severe. Last week in this column, we talked about finding young people in our own organizations and then nurturing them to become an integral part of our companies. So, I thought it only appropriate that this week we would talk about that nurturing process, training them to become not only viable, but outstanding members of our organizations.
1. The PCB is not a commodity and it has been a vital and important participant in the global innovation of electronics.
We must show them the future. By that I mean show them the viability of our product—the past, the present and most importantly the future. Show them the value of the printed circuit board in the grand scheme of things. Point out that PCBs have taken us to the moon, made the computer age possible, made medical advancement possible, and provided the very defense and safety of our country and the world. Show them some of the products that your specific customers are building. I still think back with great pride in knowing that I touched the PCBs the guided the space shuttle and the PCBs that went to Mars on the Motorola Viking program. We have all been in a doctor’s or dentist’s office or in a hospital and seen our customers’ names all over the equipment that surrounds us, only to realize that our boards are in the equipment. Even though so many of our customers try to commoditize our products, we all know better.
2. Teach them the entire process.
For these young people to completely and understand our products, it is important they know how they are built. This means more than a plant tour; it means having them spend some time in the shop. If they have been working in the shop already, chances are they only know their job and the process. So, it’s important they learn the entire process. The best way to do this is to have them spend time building a board themselves—following it through and performing each step of that process. This will go a long way towards giving them an understanding of what it takes to build a printed circuit board. This gets even more important if the young person you’ve hired has never worked in our industry before; it will be time well spent.
3. Train them completely for their new position.
Whether they are going into sales or starting out in the drill room or being promoted from the drill room to a supervisory position, prepare and implement a complete and comprehensive training program. This program should not end after a few weeks. A complete training program will have evolutionary stages of development along the way. Lay out an entire year’s development program. This will not only serve as a checkpoint to see how the person is doing but will also give you the opportunity to mentor the person along the way. Training is one area that has always been lacking in our industry and I believe it is the number one reason we are in the state we are in today when it comes to the aging of our industry.
4. Show them the places they’ll go.
Show them their future. Lay out a career path setting expectations for where they will be in one year, in three years, in five years. A young person has his entire future ahead of him; the only way you are going to keep him engaged is to show him that future, explaining to him in real detail the growth and earning possibilities he can expect by investing his time and effort in our industry. Tell him about the earning power of a good, mature engineer, or a passionate salesperson.
We should keep in mind that our schools are not exactly lauding the advantages of working in manufacturing and the exciting possibilities that entails. Our kids are taught to be lawyers and doctors and accountants and teachers. They are never taught the possibilities of being involved in manufacturing, which is why when they do come to us, most of the time it’s just to have a job and a paycheck to put food on the table. They have no concept of the career that is possible and the earning potential that a career in manufacturing offers them. I can safely state that no young lady in high school has probably ever said, “When I grow up I’m going to sell circuit boards!”
But to many of us, being in this business has provided opportunities far beyond our expectations. We have made good and rewarding lives from this industry.
It’s only common sense.