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The I-Connect007 editorial team had the pleasure of an extended and detailed conversation with Johnny Vanderford and Courtney Tenhover from Lorain County Community College (LCCC). Vanderford and Tenhover are at the heart of the microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) program at LCCC that is emerging as a model for a successful technical higher-education program. This conversation was lively, and the enthusiasm at LCCC is infectious, as it should be; their results are impressive.
Nolan Johnson: Can you please introduce who you are and what you do?
Johnny Vanderford: I’m an assistant professor and coordinator of the MEMS program at LCCC. I am also the director of LCCC’s new Manufacturing Electronics and Rework Institute for Training (MERIT). The content of our degree and institute is primarily focused on training with hands-on skills in electronics manufacturing.
Johnson: We need a lot of that in this industry.
Vanderford: I couldn’t agree more.
Courtney Tenhover: I’m a program developer at LCCC. I work on the earn-and-learn side of the program with Johnny, including getting job placements for students, working with employers to understand their needs, and pairing students and employers together. I have an HR and project management background, so bringing that to this program helps me work with employers on the HR side. Johnny is the technical expert.
Vanderford: My background is in electrical engineering. I have a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University. A primary part of my degree is based on electronic materials and hybrid board manufacturing, including a variety of different types of PCBs. The degree we teach is microelectronics manufacturing. It’s how PCBs are manufactured, assembled, repaired, reworked, and designed with some additional skills in microelectronic packaging, such as wire bonding, die attach, and even a little bit of some chemical fabrication of silicon wafers and PCBs.
The degree is heavily focused on career placement in electronics manufacturing. It is designed to be a workforce generator to help fill the pipeline. We require every student in our program to have accumulated 600 hours of paid workforce experience, or the student doesn’t get their degree, and the community college won’t get state share of instruction (i.e., additional funding for continuing) for helping students get degrees. We all know someone who has a degree in one thing, but they’re working in a completely separate field. We have tailored the program using input and feedback from our industry supporters so that we can train students in necessary electronics manufacturing skills, such as hand soldering, hot air rework, loading pick-and-place systems, and stencil printers with solder paste.
Students can get trained at the college while they’re taking classes, and they get employed at companies working part-time from one to three years while they continue toward their bachelor’s degree. My role is to give them the technical content, and Courtney’s role is to connect the students with the companies on an HR level. When we go to companies, I talk engineering with engineers. Courtney finds out what the job needs are, gets those job requests to our students and alumni, gathers the resumes of those interested students and alumni, and sends them back to the company’s HR line. That way, the engineers tailor the technical content to the program, and the company has a steady flow of workforce that is ready to begin working.
To read this entire interview, which originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.