STEM: The Future of Our Industry


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Facing a growing shortage of talented labor with which to fill the employment positions in America, IPC is working to help solve this problem. With over 4,400 members globally and chapters in almost every state, Colette Buscemi, senior director of IPC’s education programs, is encouraging IPC members to better engage pre-college and post-secondary college students at the local level. Barry Matties spoke with Colette about the educational programs IPC has put in place to invest in future generations, including the STEM program at this year’s IPC APEX EXPO, which has doubled in size from last year.

Barry Matties: You’re the senior director of the education program for IPC. First, tell me a little bit about your position and what you do.

Colette Buscemi: I was hired in January of 2018 to oversee IPC’s education programs targeting high school or pre-college students and postsecondary college students. We’re also looking at K–8 but in a slightly different way. The goal is to attract more students into the electronics industry generally, everything from engineers to operators and technicians.

Matties: I know you have a STEM program at IPC APEX EXPO. We’re proudly sponsoring that. Tell me a little bit about what the program and what people can expect.

Buscemi: We’re super excited about IPC APEX EXPO 2019. When I joined in January of 2018, within two weeks, I was at the show, and we had already set the foundation for what you’re going to see in 2019. Our goal is to get in 100 students from the local San Diego region. We’re going to provide them with a full day of activities beginning with a breakfast and a panel session of industry leaders who will be talking about careers in electronics. Then we’ll spend about an hour to an hour and a half with the students on the floor showcasing all the exhibition has to offer. We’ll also be giving the students an opportunity to have a hands-on experience with soldering. We’re bringing in some of our trainers to support us, so the students will have a good experience and exposure to what the purpose of a PCB is, how it’s designed, how they interact with it—everything from “that’s hot, don’t touch it,” to the basics and fundamentals.

The goal is to expose them to see, feel, touch, and experience what this industry is about, and there’s no better way to do that than getting them on the floor or putting tools in their hands so they can see how the equipment works. We’ll also be providing them with potential mentoring opportunities. We’re building that program as well. They’ll have a well-rounded day.

Matties: When you say mentoring opportunities, can you talk more about that?

Buscemi: When we talk with college students, one of the most important things they ask us for beyond courses is connections to the industry. We will have thousands of people at this event. We’re figuring out how we can start to build our mentoring program and use IPC APEX EXPO as the launching point. Whether it’s an open Q&A where we have some of our industry members present and talk to the students, or we do one-on-one “speed dating,” we’re in the process of building that program and welcome participation from our IPC industry members. We believe that 2019 and 2020 will be even better.

Matties: Last year was the inaugural STEM event with high school students. What feedback did you receive from students?

Buscemi: We received great feedback. They were all very excited to be there. In fact, we gave a scholarship to one of the schools, awarding $1,000 to Canyon Crest Academy and Preuss School to help fund STEM programs. We plan on repeating that this year. The students were really excited about the opportunity to get on the floor, and they were really impressed with what they saw. We took them through the booths of Panasonic and Nordson, and many of our members stepped up to the plate and took the time to have these students tour their booths. They loved it. The students enjoyed the opportunity to see this equipment and get a first-hand view of what was happening.

Matties: If you look at the climate today, we know how difficult it is to keep our supply of talent in the labor pool; I think it’s the most vital resource we have.

Buscemi: According to Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, it is estimated that in 2025, two million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled due to the skills gap. We need to fill those jobs and have a technically competent, skilled, knowledgeable workforce to do that. There are many things we need to do to attract the next generations of workers to our industry, and our efforts must start at an even younger level. That is why we are starting in high school because we know that’s the feeder point, but reaching further down into junior high school will probably be the next thing on our horizon. We are also reaching out to local community colleges and universities to provide technical training and scholarships for students interested in pursuing a career in manufacturing, and connecting students with IPC industry members locally.

To read the full article, which appeared in the December 2018 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.

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