U.S. SBA Chief Visiting IPC Member Calumet Electronics, Praising its Efforts to Boost the Skilled Workforce

July 23, 2019 – The Trump administration today is recognizing IPC member Calumet Electronics in Calumet, Michigan, for its efforts to expand its skilled workforce.  

This morning, Chris Pilkerton, Acting Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), is visiting Calumet Electronics in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to walk the factory floor and learn about the manufacturing process for printed circuit boards (PCBs) used in aerospace, defense, power grid, medical, industrial controls and other commercial products. Later he will take part in a roundtable discussion at Michigan Technological University, focusing on workforce issues that affect the U.S. electronics industrial base. Participants including Colette Buscemi, senior director of IPC education programs and Chris Mitchell, vice president, IPC global government relations, will focus on what must be done by businesses, governments, and other organizations to provide the technical education opportunities at all levels, from K-12 through college and career.

Calumet Electronics is a 100% “Made in America” PCB manufacturer that is actively engaged in reskilling its workforce for advanced manufacturing technologies. The company was an early participant in the President’s “Pledge to America’s Workers,” which calls on companies and trade groups to expand skilled workforce programs. In its local area, Calumet supports impactful workforce-development programs including the Calumet High School CopperBots robotics team; the Copper Country Intermediate School District Career and Technical Education (CTE) program; and the Michigan Technological University’s Electrical Engineering Department, where Calumet recently helped create the first PCB fabrication course in 20 years.

Calumet is also working to adopt advanced microelectronics manufacturing techniques that could allow the company and other domestic PCB shops to leapfrog offshore competition.

Audra Thurston, a 23-year-old process engineer who joined the company one year ago, says, “The average age in the U.S. printed circuit board industry is 50 years old. So, I’m proud to work for a company that recognizes the need to recruit and retain younger engineers, including women, to help us stay on the cutting edge.” In the months since Calumet joined in the President’s pledge, Audra has attended the PCB class at Michigan Tech and worked as part of the team developing the advanced microelectronics capability.

Todd Brassard, vice president and chief operating officer of Calumet Electronics, says, “We are proud to support President Trump’s Pledge to the American Worker. In our community, we are fulfilling this pledge by working with high schools, youth programs, CTE programs, and hands-on university courses. Inside the company, we are focusing on careers rather than jobs, getting young people excited about electronics manufacturing, and solving problems within our industry.”

“IPC applauds the Trump administration for bringing together the public and private sectors to help today's workers thrive in the modern workforce,” says IPC President and CEO John Mitchell. “The national dialogue between the White House and the business sector has accelerated workforce readiness efforts, with more and more employers, workers, universities, and others getting involved. For our part, we know the difference we're making in workers lives through our education and credentialing programs, and we’re continuing to expand our efforts.”

On Thursday, the White House is convening an event on the one-year anniversary of President Trump’s Executive Order to develop a national strategy to expand the skilled workforce in key industries. IPC strongly supports such efforts and, since joining in the President’s pledge, has made unprecedented, multi-million-dollar investments in its already-extensive educational programs, including trainings and valuable certifications for adult workers; new university chapters and electronics courses; and new curricula and outreach efforts aimed at students in middle and high school. The White House event will be attended by employees and executives from five IPC member companies: Calumet Electronics (including Audra Thurston, noted above); Summit Interconnect of Anaheim, California; STI Electronics of Madison, Alabama; TTM Technologies of Santa Anna, California; and Zentech Manufacturing of Baltimore, Maryland.  

More resources available: IPC can offer interviews, photos, and more background on these events and topics. Online information is available on the websites of IPC (for adult education programs) and the IPC Educational Foundation (for programs aimed at grades K-12).  

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