The Best It’s Ever Been, Every Year: The Goal for IPC, Part 1


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The end of 2017 caps an exciting time for IPC and IPC China as membership has grown substantially, in part because of new offerings from the organization to its Asian members. Meeting with Barry Matties at HKPCA, John Mitchell and Phil Carmichael discuss the areas of focus for IPC in the upcoming year, first and foremost being education and welcoming a new generation into the industry.

Barry Matties: You're a lot of smiles, and I think for good reason; I hear you now have 1,000 members in China? That's amazing. Because when Phil started, you had something like 200-300, and that was just five years ago?

John Mitchell: It'll be five years in January. The team here has done a really good job of reaching out to the members, and potential members, and really helping demonstrate how IPC standards and training, really goes right to the bottom line. We've just partnered with a group to go out and get some very specific member feedback on the value IPC provides, and I’m very excited about the preliminary data we have received. So, by IPC APEX EXPO, you'll start seeing some of that coming out. There are negative comments there as well, as there will be when you have 4,300 member sites.

Matties: But that's what we learn from, right?

Mitchell: We learn from that and then we know how to lead better. If you're reading this, and you have something we should fix, we want to know that too.

Matties: What sort of things do people have issues with?

Mitchell: So, it's a plus and a minus. We've been changing a lot in the last five or six years, and that's a plus in a lot of regards. The very fact that we're not doing things the exact same way we've always done them, I hear a lot of concerns and questions about that. We are trying to keep up with where the future is going and most members are very good with that. They understand it and are ready to move and they're appreciative of our helping them be ready for the future. Others, it's a challenge for them. We're trying to find ways to help them bridge that gap into more modern-day requirements. A lot of what we're trying to do to meet their needs centers around using the latest technologies and processes.

For instance, the number two most requested change or concern that most of our members have about their business is people. There's either a shortage, they can't hire the right people, or there's turnover, whatever those issues may be. We're working very diligently to globally help develop the workforce. We've had some great test cases with some member companies, frankly, over the last seven years and we've seen positive results. We're trying to figure out how to bring those results and products to either interface with people’s learning management systems (LMS), if they already have one, or if they don't, provide such a system for them so they can track and actually provide the training. Either we'll generate the content ourselves where we have the expertise, or we're partnering with people to provide it so we can deliver cost-effective education solutions.

When I was a manager and I wanted to promote somebody, I would promote them and say, "Hey, Dave! Guess what? Congratulations! You're now the senior lead!" And he'd go, "Okay, where's my training?" And I'd reluctantly have to say something like, "Come to me if you have any problems." And this was when I worked for a multibillion-dollar company, so even in some big companies, workforce development is not perfect.

Matties: Sure, it's a tribal knowledge approach.

Mitchell: That's right, but in small- and medium-sized companies, which comprises most of our membership, there's less budget and resources to provide education and training. So, we feel as an association that's something we can do to help the entire global industry, and you're going to see a lot more coming that way.

Matties: With education, what sort of training is it that you really have to focus on? What is lacking?

Mitchell: First off, one of the things I share with few people is that I don't want to have people pay money and then they still can't get a job or get a return on their education. What we're doing is, we've reached out to several HR executives of our members and we've started a council with them. We've done some surveys, and we know what the job openings that are both at engineering level and operator level that are hard to fill. Now we're taking that information and our senior director of online training is working with the HR Executives Council to break each of those jobs into skill sets. That council is looking to answer questions like: “What are the skills that make up every one of those jobs?” Then we're going to look at the overlap of those skills across positions and those skills will be the first things that we're putting out there. That's how we're trying to do it; it is really skill set based. In the future, you'll have a skill set base, and then we'll also have learning tracks. We'll say, “Here's the training you need or the skill sets you need to become an ‘X’. If you want to advance past that, you need to add these skills” and we'll have a whole career development course library.

Matties: And so, when you look at the future, automation, automation, automation is what people talk about.

Mitchell: Exactly. If you can get this training through an automated fashion, why wouldn't you?

Matties: But when they talk about automation, they talk more about process and eliminating people, and the need for that.

Mitchell: They are eliminating some people, but they are also requiring higher skill levels that they can't find. So, for those people that they are eliminating, if we can get them to that higher skill level, even better. And you've got people who are loyal to your company already, if you can do it internally. Then if you can't retrain internally, you’ll have to find people from outside. Where we've seen success with organizations that partnered with us, they took people out of the food service industry, out of the financial services industry, who knew nothing about electronics. Using IPC materials and a little bit of their own, these newly trained people are now program managers and project managers, it's been fabulous.

Matties: I bet. Not just fabulous, but it's got to be rewarding.

Mitchell: Oh, exactly. My doctorate is in education, so guess what I love? I love nothing more than for people to sit there and say, “I want to be better or increase my skills or improve.” How do you do that? You do that through education. And it's not for everybody. Some people just want to sit there and do the same thing over and over. God Bless them, good for them. But for those that want to change, we want to offer opportunities.

Matties: Are you doing an automated online Khan Academy sort of thing?

Mitchell: That sort of thing. We hired a gentleman who had done this for another industry and basically built a university of online courses. They partnered with community colleges as well. We're looking to build something like that and we're at the beginning stages of it but you'll see some initiatives come out in 2018.

Matties: Are you sure you don't want to say it now?

Mitchell: Say what, now? “In 2018” doesn't mean January first. I've got a whole year! (Laughs) We're still trying to decide on skill sets, so until we know, we're not going to build. And then we'll test. So, we'll build some and we'll go out to the members and say, “Okay, is this right? How would you like this?” We want to involve the members more in this so that we're really making this something that they're going to value. They're part of the design team.

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