Nolan Johnson talks training with David Raby, president and CEO of STI Electronics. David walks Nolan through STI’s role as a provider of training and EMS services, and the two talk about the strategic need for training and skilled staff in manufacturing. Dave outlines what visitors can find in the company’s virtual booth, and the two conclude by discussing hot topics in training.
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Nolan Johnson: Hi, Nolan Johnson here for Real Time with… SMTAI, the virtual edition. And today, I’m talking with Dave Raby, the president and CEO at STI. Dave, welcome.
Dave Raby: Thank you, Nolan. It’s good to be here.
Johnson: We’re just on the cusp of the show. It’s getting kind of exciting right now. Tell us a little bit about STI for those who don’t know who you are. And then, let’s go into what we can find at your booth.
Raby: STI is 38 years old. I keep thinking of us as kind of a new company, but actually, we’ve been around quite a while. I think of us as a small family company, but there are now 60 of us in three locations. We’re primarily known for our training, where we do IPC certification, and also commercial, NASA training, and customized for whatever a company needs. We have classrooms in Madison, Alabama, which is just outside of Huntsville. We’re in Houston, Texas, and Odon, Indiana. Then, we are also an EMS company, where we have two full surface-mount lines, a cleanroom, a failure analysis lab, and a lot of things that make us unique on that side, and all of that is located in Madison, Alabama.
Johnson: That’s quite an organization.
Raby: It is. We do a lot of different things. I’m really proud of what we do. And sometimes, I think everybody else is smart enough not to do all these things, but...
Johnson: You fit into an interesting niche, that’s for sure, especially around training and skills. It’s well known in the industry that there is a labor pool shortage of skilled people, and so that definitely is a great niche for you to be filling.
Raby: Yes, that is the case nationwide, and it’s amplified in the area that we are in here in the Huntsville area. This area is just growing like crazy, both government and commercial. And before COVID-19, there was a huge gap in the employers being able to find qualified workers. We’ve been working on that, partially selfishly, because we need the employees also, but also to provide to other people in our area. But it’s also the case, like I said, nationwide, so our other training centers are doing the same thing.
Johnson: This is part of what you have in your product portfolio; that is something that most everybody could use. When they stop by your booth at SMTAI, the virtual booth, what can they expect to find?
Raby: First, let me clarify that by saying I’ve never actually been to a virtual booth before, so we’re going to see. Here’s what we’re shooting for. There are going to be videos, downloadable documentation, and a live chat, as they used to say on television, with operators standing by. We will have people from all our different areas, including an instructor standing by to answer any questions, talk about the different classes we have and talk about what you need. You know what I mean? Because we have classes A, B, and C, but you may need B plus and C minus. And so we can customize based on what you need. We don’t want to sell you something that’s not what you need. We’ll have people that can talk about that, talk about schedules and just give you all types of information.
Johnson: You raised a great point there, Dave. What are some of the hottest topics? Some of the most requested training needs that you’re seeing here in 2020? I assume that there’s been a bit of a shift in the needs now that we’re in basically a COVID-19 period. And then looking forward into 2021, what are the hot topics?
Raby: J-STD-001, which is the hand soldering, and the IPC-A-610, which is the inspection. Those are always hot. With COVID-19 training stopped for a little while because people couldn’t travel, people couldn’t gather in groups, and all of that. There’s a pent-up demand for that, all the certifications and training that stopped, so people came back for that. What we’re seeing that seems a little different than normal is for quite a while, we’ve taught and certified the IPC-620, which is the cable and harness class. We also teach for NASA on that particular class because NASA has always done a lot of cable and harness building. We’ve always been busy with that, but that really seems to have boomed in the last six months, and I can’t tell you why; I just know it has. We have developed a basic class for that also.
I always look at taking people off the street. If you’re talking about a J-STD-001 class or an IPC-610 class, you can’t take somebody off the street, and put them through that, and have them be successful. You need some background knowledge and some experience before you do that. They’re great classes, but they’re not really for beginners. The IPC-620 certification is the same way. It really doesn’t even have hands-on. It has all the technical requirements for cable and harness, but it’s not something that you could pull somebody that hasn’t been building cable and harnesses in and have them start there. We’ve developed a class that we’re just introducing. Actually, we’ll be talking about it at the show. And that is something that we plan to have grown over the next several months and really expected things from it.
Johnson: Great. That’s very interesting. You’re putting together some great information. Those are good reasons for people to stop by and talk with you at SMTAI. I’m looking forward to stopping by your booth myself.
Raby: We look forward to seeing you. I wish we could be there in person, but I mean, it’s going to be unique. I’m looking forward to that part, though.
Johnson: Great. Thanks for stopping to talk with us. I really appreciate it. For Real Time with… SMTAI, I’m Nolan Johnson. Thanks for watching.