The COVID19 pandemic has crushed the economy, pushing companies and consumers across the globe to speedily adopt new behaviors and practices. These changes are compelling industry leaders to reevaluate just about everything, including the way they train new workers who enter the workforce. In the electronics manufacturing industry, the pandemic has forced the temporary cancellation of almost every training program, tradeshow, workforce meeting, and any event that requires large gatherings. These measures are likely to stick in 2021. The pandemic’s impact on labor markets is worrying the vast majority of electronics manufacturers.

Solder Training

In a recent survey by the IPC (Institute for Interconnecting and Packaging Electronic Circuits) involving the world’s leading electronics manufacturers, 30% of the respondents said they’re “extremely concerned” about the impacts the pandemic will have on their operations. A lot of their employees are still working remotely. Training inexperienced workers while maintaining social distancing laws is a major challenge that the industry will continue to face in the next couple of years.

The Challenges of Digital Training for Soldering Professionals

Soldering is a manual task. Like any other manual task, teaching soldering is extremely difficult on purely virtual platforms. Cancellation of training events and the closing of certification institutes has forced many soldering professionals with incomplete training to turn to video conferencing tools. The number of webinars held by IPC-certified training institutes has increased significantly over the past year as companies scramble to keep their workforces updated with the latest IPC guidelines and protocols. Some of the challenges faced by these companies that have invested in distance learning include –

  • Switching from in-person interactions to virtual ones hasn’t been easy for many soldering professionals, especially the ones who have trouble handling education via video conferencing.
  • When students upload photos of their soldered interconnections and other materials, it’s extremely hard for the instructors to examine the quality of their work.
  • When online solder training programs start being perceived as ‘ineffective’ by the students, many questions are raised about the company’s support department. Insufficiently trained soldering and electronic assembly professionals may feel alienated by their employers.
  • The IPC has continued to launch several new guidelines and revisions to previous standards, despite the pandemic. The progress in soldering and electronic assembly processes hasn’t been halted. But, the number of soldering and electronic assembly professionals learning these latest updates and revisions has steadily decreased in 2020.
  • Frustrated and insufficiently trained soldering and electronic assembly professionals will not recommend online training to their peers.
  • Human mistakes in the process of providing training are inevitable. Trainers who are new to the concept of virtual training may forget to deal with certain functionalities, get distracted by questions from their virtual students, or even misinterpret the actual progress of the student force.

The Lingering Problem of High-Quality Workers in the Electronics Manufacturing Industry

The challenge of attracting, training, and employing high-quality soldering and electronic assembly professionals had haunted the electronics manufacturing industry way before the COVID19 pandemic rocked the world. In 2018, a study revealed that there would be 2.4 million jobs in the electronics manufacturing industry. Despite the temporary easing of COVID-19 restrictions, the sudden influx of soldering and electronic assembly professionals returning to work isn’t enough to meet the target of 2.4 million workers by 2028.

The number of retired soldering and electronic assembly professionals continues to increase each year, leaving behind gaping holes in the world of PCB and electronic component manufacturing. For other technical positions such as PCB quality control professionals, the number of qualified applicants has been falling steadily.

How Mobile Training Centers are Helping Reverse this Negative Trend

Although ‘e-learning’ isn’t ideal for soldering and electronic assembly professionals, it does offer some benefits. For instance, in e-learning environments, untrained soldering and electronic assembly professionals can receive educational courses that are constantly updated and quickly adapted to meet the latest IPC guidelines. Similarly, frequently asked questions (FAQs) can be included on an IPC-certified training institute’s support desk to ensure new soldering and electronic assembly professionals don’t have any unanswered doubts.

However, the most innovative solution to these training-related problems during the pandemic is the creation of the Best Mobile Training Center. These training centers mix three different types of providing education to untrained soldering and electronic assembly professionals –

  • Online training for soldering and electronic assembly professionals who have travel-related restrictions.
  • In-person training at conveniently located and outfitted hand soldering and training centers. These training centers are located in hotspots across the country. Soldering and electronic assembly professionals from any company can visit these training centers and receive training and certification in the safest way possible.
  • Mobile training centers. Customized 18-wheelers visit different manufacturing plants or training centers. Inside these vehicles (mobile training labs), IPC-certified instructors and educators carry all the soldering equipment students need to carry out demonstrations, provide hands-on soldering training, etc.

These “mobile training centers” are also extremely comfortable learning environments for new soldering and electronic assembly professionals. They receive total access to the latest soldering equipment and the latest information published by the IPC. More importantly, these professionals are able to stay focused on their certification objectives and advance their career goals, be it getting re-certifications or obtaining new company employee training.