The ICT/NUKCG Foundation Course

 

The Northern UK Circuit Group was founded in early 1980. Prior to its launch an inaugural meeting was held in September 1979 (I was there!) at the Hewlett Packard Facility in South Queensferry, where 300 PCB folk crammed into the refectory. Three of the founders, Ian Lang of Exacta Circuits, Bryan Murrin and Peter Carmichael of Prestwick asked for a vote to found the Group – it was fairly unanimous and the die was cast.

Bryan was one of the stalwarts in starting up the NUKCG and Peter recalls many ‘happy hours’ stuffing envelopes and licking and sticking stamps. No email in those days and all correspondence was by letter!

The first meeting of the NUKCG was held in a hotel in Carlisle with the theme of Multilayer Boards and although it was a large venue, it was packed to capacity with over 140 delegates – a sign of things to come.

There was a very active Electronic and PCB apprentice scheme throughout the Scottish Borders, run in conjunction with BETA, but no training course, so Geoff Paterson, the technical Director of Bepi Circuits was tasked with setting up a Basic Course in PCB Technology starting in 1981.

At that time, Brian Pledger ran a very successful evening course at the Slough College of Higher Education under the Printed Circuit Group of the Institute of Metal Finishing and Brian was active in helping us set up the course and also supplied a copy of their syllabus. The initial NUKCG course was residential through local hotels and lasted for two weeks (each lecture lasted for two hours and practical work was included) with a multi-choice question exam on the final day. The winner received a £50 book voucher and each delegate was presented with a copy of John Scarlet’s seminal work – An Introduction to Printed Circuit Board Technology.

One of the reasons that the course was so successful, was that it was basically free and the organisers also were unpaid – the other two-week basic course run for the ICT at Ruskin College, Oxford by Pat Kirby, was by necessity , run on a strictly commercial basis and was expensive by comparison. Both Courses were well attended and very successful at a time when the need for training was paramount and between them, they covered all of the UK.

Almost from its inception, there was a drive to amalgamate the three courses into one common course with the same syllabus and a common examination held on the same day – but amalgamation for the courses was never achieved.

There was the same drive to amalgamate all the PCB’ Institutes/Groups into one, but that was also destined to fail.

Delegates came from all over Scotland and the North of England and 20 – 45 delegates was not uncommon. I took over as coordinator of the course in 1985, when Geoff left for Hong Kong and at that time each lecturer supplied twenty copies of the lecture held in a gold leaf binder. The course had started in an annex at the Borders College of Further Education and then was moved to swish lecture theatre at the Heriot Watt University Campus, also in Galashiels and the halls were used for the residential part of the course. The first day also had a facility tour, which at that time was held either at Exacta Circuits, Bepi Circuits or MEPD and a get-together dinner in the evening.

We also tried a distance learning approach. Funding was secured and several modules were prepared loosely based on a Training Module in Metal Finishing Technology issued by the Institute of Metal Finishing under a system called Opentech. Each module was accompanied by an Audiocassette, with the instruction that it should be listened to in monophonic reproduction!

Lawson Lightfoot took over the running of the course in 1995 and ran it until the requirement in that part of the UK was limited and Peter Dalgliesh, the then chairman of the NUKCG agreed to a joint venture between the ICT and the NUKCG, with the course transferred to Loughborough University. The joint venture lasted for two years before it was permanently transferred to the ICT, as the NUKCG wound up, with the name changed to The ICT/NUKCG Foundation Course, to reflect its origins.

Following the first year in 2005, we re-started the get-together Networking Dinner on the first day of the course. We were also very fortunate in having the patronage of Invotec Circuits Group at Tamworth and after using a coach to transfer delegates for the first time in 2006; Invotec went even further the following year and allowed us the use of their facilities to hold the first day at Tamworth including the Facility tour.

At our recent Seminar in Glasgow, one of the speakers, Jim Francey showed a slide of the certificate he received, when he attended the course in 1982 — prompting a comment from one of the other speakers, Geoff Layhe, that he had also attended the course in the Eighties — reinforcing the concept of the course as pre-eminent in the PCB Industry.

 

Bill Wilkie

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