PCB007 Magazine

PCB-Nov2017

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68 The PCB Magazine • November 2017 "Touring the advanced manufactur- ing facility is actually what inspired us the most because we got to see all the cool applications and kinds of tech- nology," he explained. "That is what slingshotted my idea with my group. After seeing the tech- nology, we saw what was pos- sible and said, 'Let's go.'" Jor- dan is continuing to pursue the Asthmex product and has enrolled in the pro- gram for a second time. Through FlexFac- tor's collaborative ap- proach to education, entrepreneurship and technology, NextFlex is helping students identify and engage in career pathways in advanced manufacturing, while ac- tively increasing the interest and talent in the U.S.-based STEAM pipeline. The FlexFactor pro- gram creates a win for all stakeholders. High schools expose youth to real-world problems, blend STEAM and entrepreneurship in a project learning environment, and students further de- velop personal and professional skills. Commu- nity colleges expand enrollment, create addi- tional educational and career pathway opportu- nities, and link community college STEAM fo- cus to a Manufacturing USA Institute. Government facilitates the creation of a na- tionally competitive talent pool prepared to tackle society-wide technology challenges, in- crease student awareness in STEAM occupa- tions, motivate students to purse STEAM educa- tion, and provide students a government-spon- sored activity that develops disciplinary based knowledge and promotes critical thinking, rea- soning and communication skills. Our indus- try benefits by the expanded awareness and in- terest in advanced manufacturing, reduced hir- ing expenses via a direct channel to qualified resources for both internship and long-term workforce requirements, and increased commu- nity exposure through relationships with local high schools and community colleges. A talent pipeline shortage is looming across all flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) manufactur- ing occupations. This was validated in a 2016 study for NextFlex [1] by the Workforce In- telligence Network. This study report- ed that 25% of the workforce in FHE is over 55 years old, while only 6% is under the age of 24, indicating a talent shortage that the industry will face as experienced work- ers retire. There is also enthu- siasm in the industry to con- nect with students that are unsure of career opportu- nities in advanced man- ufacturing sectors and are unaware of new technologies now in development that will impact lives in mean - ingful ways. The Flex- Factor program is working to bridge the gap, connect students and organizations, and bring excitement about advanced manufacturing to young people. What isn't there to be excited about: mouth guards that could detect an athlete's hydration level; non-obstructive patches that could detect blood glucose levels for Type 1 diabetics; an al- lergen medication patch that can administer the exact amount of epinephrine needed based on inflammation detected in the blood; and a device that can detect the levels of leptin hor- mone to evaluate sleep quality. Yes, these and many more cool applications are coming from the FlexFactor list of products that have been pitched. If these ideas are generated from a four- week program, I am excited to see what these students will develop in the future, and have renewed faith in the future of our industry and the role that advanced manufacturing and flex- ible hybrid electronics will play. PCB Reference 1. Report available from www.nextflex.us. Tara Dunn is the president of Omni PCB, a manufacturer's rep firm spe- cializing in the printed circuit board industry. To read past columns or to contact Dunn, click here. FLEXFACTOR: FAITH IN THE FUTURE

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