On Location at HKPCA: IPC’s Mitchell and Carmichael on Asia, the Global Industry Outlook, and Trump

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Matties: How does IPC plan for this? Or is it a wait and see?

Mitchell: How do we plan for this? What we can do is get ready; get our members ready and get our industry ready. We keep our ear to the ground. We try to make sure that as we become aware of discussions about policy or changes to regulations, that sort of thing, that we inform our membership and then get in early before it becomes enacted and we're caught by surprise. We've been caught by surprise in the past. Recently, we've been very fortunate in being able to be on the ground and actually get our language right into the bills.

Whether it's in D.C., Brussels or Beijing, we try to be more aware, which is why we have facilities in all those places.

Matties: I think planning or wait and see, there may also be new opportunities if we're seeing taxes and regulations ease. It seems to me that immediately we're going to see a rather large bump in capital equipment purchases, for example.

Mitchell: You would think so. Because you're not going to move the equipment. The opportunity of that as well is that this industry is capital intensive. So 20 years ago when a lot of the industry was growing here in China, the great advantage that China had was that they were buying new equipment. So you had the latest capabilities and you could compete better. It was faster, better, stronger. If that opportunity happened where it made sense for companies to start building factories in America again, well, guess what? They're going to buy the latest equipment and that could shift in some product areas where suddenly the advantage may be back in the U.S. to build it.

However, that doesn't necessarily mean more jobs. Because with so much of the new technology you need knowledge workers, engineers and people who have STEM education in order to manage the factory of the future that's not manual.

Matties: That goes back to my question. If we see this is going to happen, is there new education that needs to take place?

Mitchell: Yes, these are the kinds of things that IPC is doing. So while we can't affect policy directly, we try to influence it, but in terms of education, we've launched IPC EDGE. We're trying to find ways to expedite the process. Instead of saying, “oh, we need to wait eight years to get a master's degree student out of the university,” is there a 12-week program that can train somebody that we can help develop and work in the industry? So we have those plans. We're looking at 2017 to harness the power and the information of the industry, and this affects the global marketplace, not just the U.S., and to say, “what are the skill sets you need in the factory and can we build that into an online training system so that you agree if they get IPC certified or IPC authenticated to certain skill sets that you'll go hire that person based on that?” And now for 12 weeks, you can train staff quickly and efficiently and you can start bringing people in very quickly instead of waiting multiple years.

Matties: Is it possible to see that sort of shift happening in the U.S.? There's a real labor shortage there.

Mitchell: There's a labor shortage everywhere. I was just on a panel at our IMPACT Europe event in Brussels on the skills agenda in Europe and it’s the same issue there. In China, we talk to our people here, there's still a knowledge shortage of skilled workers here. It is a global phenomenon. We need to train to the right level of people and if we can expedite that process instead of waiting years to get that degree, that's the opportunity IPC is providing through IPC EDGE.

Matties: In China, you instituted the training program for the entry level.

Carmichael: The operator entry-level program.

Matties: How's that working out?

Carmichael: It's been slow, but I think part of the challenge is the delivery method. You'll see us working within the next 12 months to be able to offer that type of a program online. I think that's the key. There's a lot of training in China that's done online today. This is a fairly entry level type program where you want to be able to train a lot of people at the same time. It's not exactly the right type of program to do in a classroom with a full-time instructor. It's better to have it done as part of the onboarding process for people. We expect that when we get our online activity up and running here that we'll see an uptick in that as well.

We've also added that in the U.S., and we've added an ESD program, which will be a certification type program for people, particularly good for onboarding. As you know in China, there's a lot of cyclical activity in the industry. Typically, 20–25% of labor that goes back home for Chinese New Year doesn't return. So there's this opportunity, and we will be ready for that opportunity to be able to offer online training for onboarding, whether it's the operator program or the ESD program around that time frame, which will be in the late February/early March timeframe for 2017.

Matties: APEX is right around the corner. What should we expect there?

Mitchell:  It's going to be big. Actually I just saw the data last night. At the same point compared with last year and compared with the same point with the last San Diego show, we're up, depending on the metric, between 20 and 150%. Now that depends on the metric, but in terms of exhibitors, we're already ahead on that metric. That was the 15 to 20% metric. We've got a lot more people advertising there, which has been exciting. That's the 150% metric and that was at the 11 weeks out point. So we're about ten weeks away right now. I'm very encouraged about it. The space is also larger that's being used so everything is up, up, up.

Matties: Back in San Diego?

Mitchell: Happy to be there. We'll be there for the next six years.

Matties: That's great. How long have you been with IPC?

Mitchell: It will be five years in April.

Matties: Five years. And Phil, you've been there about four?

Carmichael: Yes, four years.


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