[time-nuts] modern electronics education/jobs (was: Downsizing dilemma, HP 3335A)

Attila Kinali attila at kinali.ch
Thu Nov 12 07:06:56 EST 2015

On Wed, 11 Nov 2015 23:26:19 +0000
Rob Sherwood. <rob at nc0b.com> wrote:

> One wonders how EE grads today can actually get a job and be productive
> with so little hands-on experience.

Nobody expect a graduate to have hands-on experience in electronics.
If you enter a company to do EE work in an average company in central
europe (i don't know other regions) these days, your work will have
very little to do with electronics as it was 20-30 years ago.
Most electronics projects consist of using some kind of uC with a couple
of sensors, where the needed precision/accuracy is so low that the
on-chip ADCs are good enough. Add a couple of actuators (either some
simple switches, or if it's advanced stuff, a motor controller) and
you are done. After you have done two or three of these projects you
know exactly how the electronics side works and you can do them yourself. 
The big work today is in the software of the uC. When before, people build
e.g. analog control loops, almost all are today done in software. If you know
what you are doing, you can get relatively easily to a loop bandwidth
of 1MHz completely in software, with very little dead-time.
Everything that can be done in software, is done in software. For one thing
you can debug and change it more easily (no need to do a respin of the board)
and you have a way higher re-use factor than you have with electronics desings.
Hence most of the job today is writing software (>50% if not more for
most EE jobs) and not designing circuits.

As for soldering. As an engineer, you do not need to solder often.
Prototypes are ordered with the components soldered on, because SMD
lends itself quite well to machine soldering, even in small batches
and you don't want to waste precious (work)time on something a machine
can do way better for half the price.
For the odd soldering jobs a company has, it usually pays off to have
a technician if you have more than 5-10 engineers, as it's more efficient
to have a technician to do the soldering, and let the engineers focus
on what they are good at.

Similar things can be said about education, In the 3-5years you get
your engineering degree, you need to learn so much, that there is very
little time to get hands on experience in any of it. As a student, you
usually choose one field, where you want to be good at and get more
training there. But otherwise, there is just no time to do more. 
Also none of the companies expect a fresh graduate to know much about
the practical issues (there are way too many of those to learn anyways)
and they are taught quite easily and quickly on the job. If the student
has a good mentor, and is willing to learn, he will be up to speed within
a year.

Yes, there are a couple of things lost in this game. Companies who need
people with good electronic skills (both in the theoretical and practical
aspects) have a harder and harder time to find anyone. What Ulrich wrote
is not only true for the NJ area, but for almost everywhere in the world.
People who know how to do analog are rare, people who know how to RF are
even more scarce. Yet, the opposite is also true: if you are someone who
enjoys analog/RF electronics and want to do less software, you have a 
very hard time to find a job (that's one of the reasons why I quit my
job and started a PhD).

So much for this OT from my side...

				Attila Kinali
It is upon moral qualities that a society is ultimately founded. All 
the prosperity and technological sophistication in the world is of no 
use without that foundation.
                 -- Miss Matheson, The Diamond Age, Neil Stephenson

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