Podcast: Manufacturing in Arizona

October 29, 2021

In honor of Arizona’s Manufacturing Month, EnPower’s VP of Manufacturing & Operations, Earl Wiggins, participated in an episode of STEM Unplugged, a monthly podcast designed to help individuals learn about STEM initiatives and advance STEM awareness.

STEM unplugged is hosted by Kelly Greene, Chief Operating Officer at SciTech Institute. Other panelists included Claire Conway, Arizona STEM Ecosystem Program Manager at SciTech Institute, and Eric Miller, Co-Founder of PADT. 

The podcast dives into the history of manufacturing in Arizona, the current job opportunities, and the skills necessary to be successful in this industry. Keep reading for a summary of the highlights, or listen to the full podcast for all the details! 

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Manufacturing in Arizona

Manufacturing in Arizona is on the rise, but the panelists described it as a “re-birth,” reflecting Arizona’s rich history with manufacturing. “Manufacturing really started here in World War II,” Eric shares. Many large companies, such as Motorola, developed factories but eventually left overseas. He adds, “It’s great to see it come back, to see these giant semiconductor fabs going in.” 

The growth of this industry is creating an abundance of job opportunities. Claire Conway states, “We’ve got all these companies coming here to Arizona and opening new locations. We need to make sure we have the students rising into those careers in order to fill that need.” She explains that it is crucial to get younger generations excited about the manufacturing industry as it continues to expand.

Crucial Skills for Battery Manufacturing

Manufacturing no longer consists of sitting in front of a machine all day. “Manufacturing is a skilled thing now,” Eric explains. “There’s a lot of math, there’s a lot of inputs, there’s a lot of processes.” According to Earl, understanding how the machinery works, having good computer skills, and recognizing how to work with data are all necessary skills for today’s manufacturing jobs. 

Manufacturing process innovation is critical to unlocking technology improvements. Earl sees this first-hand at EnPower: “We have figured out a better way to manufacture lithium-ion batteries to get better performance,” says Earl. Battery manufacturing requires a variety of STEM skills, including electricians, mechanical technicians, material scientists, and all types of engineers. If you are looking for manufacturing roles, EnPower is rapidly growing and new positions are posted monthly 

Solving Problems

Throughout the podcast, the panelists collectively talk about the challenges and excitement that stem from manufacturing. According to Earl, “Things are going to go wrong and that’s why I love being in manufacturing. Every day is different, I don’t know what problem I am going to have to solve tomorrow, but I know it’s going to be different from the problem I had to solve today.”

“If you like to solve problems and you like to do different things all the time and you like challenges, then manufacturing is a great way to do it,” says Eric.

Arizona is full of opportunities as manufacturing companies like EnPower continue to grow. Whether you are an industry professional seeking ways to make a difference, a student seeking a mentor, or a job seeker looking for your next role, this episode of STEM Unplugged gives great insight into the world of manufacturing.

“I don’t know what problem I am going to have to have to solve tomorrow, but I know it’s going to be different from the problem I had to solve today.”

– Earl Wiggins, VP of Manufacturing and Operations

About THE PANELISTS

Earl Wiggins brings 30 years of operations and technical leadership to EnPower. He spent 21 years in the data storage industry with Quantum Corporation and Maxtor in engineering and operations senior management roles. In addition, he was Vice President of Worldwide Operations at Maxwell Technologies and most recently served as Senior Director of Cell Production at Tesla Motors.

Eric Miller has served as an advisor to EnPower since being introduced to the company as a mentor during the AIC Venture Ready Accelerator. Eric is a co-owner of Tempe based PADT, Inc., a provider of tools and services to companies who design and manufacture physical products. He is currently Chairman of the Arizona Technology Council and regularly contributes to the Phoenix Business Journal website.  

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