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Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by John Larkin, Mar 14, 2005.

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  1. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Hello John,

    Just don't believe everything like that without some serious scrutiny. I
    have a lot of contacts into Germany and cannot confirm at all what that
    paper says. There are lots of unemployed engineers and the total
    unemployment rate is well over 10% AFAIK. That number alone tells a sad

    I have read similar sob stories here in the US. Not enough engineers,
    can't fill positions, blah, blah, blah. Then you look at the job ads and
    they are seeking dreamer combinations of skills that never existed.
    Meanwhile a lot of high-credential technical folks around here in
    California are hardcore unemployed.

    Regards, Joerg
  2. Same here in Britain.
    I'm thinking of joining the police force.
    There is no 'skills shortage', unless 'skill' is defined as someone under 30
    with a CV of highly specialist skills and more than 20yrs experience willing to
    work for Indian wages.


    The Consensus:-
    The political party for the new millenium
  3. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    I think that, worldwide, lots of newly-minted "engineers" actually
    have CS or IT educations, which both limits their utility to hacking
    C++ and makes them prime targets for foreign outsourcing.

  4. I work for a company that has a niche but valuable software product.
    What I noticed is that quite a few of the software developers actually have an EE background.
    Some work in C, some in C++ & some in Java.
    Many I suspect would prefer to be writing embedded software. Perhaps we have sold our souls to commerce.
    Perhaps this proves your point (?) that real engineers are more adaptable.

    What I would say though, is that if one has talent and can persevere with something till it is complete, then someone will hire
    you - in spite of all the outsourcing - even if you are a computer scientist. But there is no passport to prosperity, it has to
    be earned.
  5. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    Yeah. The three best programmers I know have degrees in engineering,
    chemistry and physics. None ever took a programming class.

  6. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Hello John,
    Yes, code writing is being outsourced big time. But when you look at
    unemployed engineers in Germany there are lots of MSEE, mechanical
    engineers, even Ph.D. There seems to be not much going on in R&D. Many
    companies in fields such as consumer audio and video have simply
    disappeared from there. A few years ago a manager from Germany told me
    that when they placed a job ad in a newspaper they received a whopping
    800 resumes, mostly from very qualified people and many of them way
    over-qualified. It was for an entry level job. Those applicants must
    have been quite desperate.

    So if someone claims in an article that there is a shortage of engineers
    or that one is looming I do not believe that. They can write some prose
    all day long. I will usually not even finish reading it unless there are
    some hard numbers from official sources. In Germany that would be the
    "Bundesministerium fuer Arbeit", they have the exact numbers of
    engineers who are on the unemployment rolls less the ones that have
    given up.

    Quote: "Europe's biggest economy is short of about 15,000 engineers,
    says the country's engineering association VDI. The figure represents
    the number of vacancies as well as those that are not created due to the
    paucity of engineers." Oh yeah? Where did that number come from?
    Vacancies not created because of a lack? Considering that an online ad
    costs only a few hundred I do not believe that. Just for the heck I
    checked for engineer ads on the German Monster database. I got about
    800, all categories. Looks like a 25dB discrepancy. Ok, this doesn't
    include the stick-my-head-in-the-sand category ('oh, we probably can't
    find anyone so let's not even place an ad').

    Regards, Joerg
  7. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Hello John,

    BTW, I just posted the link you gave us in the German EE forum. Let's
    see what they think. I'll report back here when the eggs and tomatoes
    start flying.

    Regards, Joerg
  8. What an ignorant attitude. The reason that EE is being hit so
    much harder than software is that it's worked for 40 years to
    make products that don't need support (repair and training) and
    indeed most mass-market products aren't even possible to repair.
    When you haven't got (and don't need) a support industry, you
    lose the seeding ground for your product enterprises.

    The same hasn't and won't happen with software, because support
    is always going to be needed. Some software can be outsourced,
    but there will always be smart local folk who can come up with
    a bright product idea and make money out of it without being
    immediately undercut by an Asian competitor. That's not to say
    that broken software can be "fixed" - look at Windows! - but that
    its failings are handled by better support, not by throwing it
    away and starting again with a new model.

    Clifford Heath.
  9. Terry Given

    Terry Given Guest

    Pah. John's bang on wrt CS/IT, although its not just foreign outsourcing
    thats the issue -there are ludicrous numbers of CS/IT parasites spewing
    forth from universities, mostly because they pay the same fees as, say,
    civil engineers, but are a hell of a lot cheaper to train, ergo are a
    source of greater profitability for the universities, which invariably
    have to meet economic goals. From an individuals perspective, I would
    steer clear of this group, because there are more of them hence more
    competition. The "law" of Supply & Demand suggests this will drive wages
    down (hey, its part of the reason I chose power electronics as a
    specialty. The explosions were the main reason though), as evinced by
    the massive outsourcing of sw jobs from the US to countries like India.

    wrt the non-repairability of electronics, that is IMO mostly concerned
    with fucked up economic models. When the assembly staff are being paid a
    few cents per hour to build a complex product, invariably in a country
    with little or no worker protection (reminds me of the taiwanes pcb
    plant I my boss took pictures of, staffed by barefoot Filipinos
    breathing highly noxious fumes), its hardly surprising that replacement
    is "cheaper" than paying a 1st-world tech to repair it - said tech being
    paid tens of dollars per hour, within some sort of framework of worker
    protection legislation.
    Really? I would argue that "support is always going to be needed"
    precisely because those writing the software are mostly talentless,
    bungling fools. Almost all electronic products nowadays contain embedded
    software, much of which *never* gets upgraded - usually because it was
    well written and tested, by EEs. OTOH PC software is usually inflicted
    on the hapless public the minute the GUI is looks vaguely useable - I
    have seen several companies not even *consider* a testing phase for
    software, instead releasing it ASAP, followed by huge amounts of code
    revisions lasting years after the original project was "finished", and I
    am sure that is only the tip of the iceberg.

    Alas managers dont seem to grasp such subtleties as total cost of
    ownership, or if they do appear to be blinded by the flashy graphics of
    GUIs, coupled with the low pay rates inexperienced CS/IT grads command.
    This ensures crap software prevails.

  10. Paul Burke

    Paul Burke Guest

    Dirkson of Dork Green?

    Paul Burke
  11. He's right that many CS/IT grads are hopelessly underequipped. But
    that just reinforces what I'm saying. The fact remains that EE has
    done *too good* a job over the last 40 years for its own good. The
    customer reaps the benefits!
    Unless (like my son who's just transferred from an EE degree to CS/IT)
    he is likely to get high distinctions throughout and have his pick of
    whatever meagre interesting jobs Australia has to offer. The same was
    not true of his prospects in EE. Time will tell, of course.
    Globalization is driving wages down anyway in both fields. Supply is
    high in India and China, and though the average quality may be lower,
    the volume makes up for it. So the only answer is to pick a field and
    work until you're at the top of it.

    True, but we're talking about the design staff here, and the degree
    of miniaturization just makes it infeasible to debug a broken phone,
    for instance, even if the tech had comparable skill to the designer.
    In any case it's usually the external hardware that fails, not the
    components, because the component reliability has been pushed so high.

    The software analogue is just not comparable.
    Hey, I didn't try to justify it! I almost feel ashamed to work in an
    industry that has delivered such large amounts of crap. But that
    doesn't change the reality. And for myself, my determination to
    deliver value for money means I haven't made much money compared to
    those who've chosen to deliver crap :). But I have my dignity, and
    a pretty productive record.
    It's just a pity they don't often have any software design skills.
    I don't mean skills to make a chosen solution work or fit, but to
    choose a solution in the first place. Too much emphasis on the
    hardware, not enough on the user. The sheer percentage of badly
    programmed embedded designs is staggering, worse even than the
    software industry proper (if possible).

  12. Easier, more secure working conditions, better pay (or at least it would have
    been by now if that had been my original career choice) and one gets to meet a
    varied and interesting cross section of the public while arresting them.

    Engineering can come and go, but all societies need police.
    Of all 'professions' the only ones that society will eternally support are
    prostitution and the head crackers who keep the revolting peasants in line.

    This means you!


    The Consensus:-
    The political party for the new millenium
  13. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    Disagree. Most embedded products - cars, appliances, calculators, home
    entertainment stuff - just work. Most computer-level stuff is buggy
    crap. I have scores of designs in the field, thousands of products in
    total, that use an embedded 32-bit CPU, and we have zero known
    firmware bugs, and all coded by EEs. My brand-new Dell/XP computers
    had stupid software problems right out the box, like occasionally
    insisting that floppies are write protected or unformatted (fix?
    reboot!) or messing up the Zip drive fats or Word crashing when
    certain graphics images are imported.

    I've seen some Windows source code, and I understand why it's such
    tripe. It's written exactly like the academics teach programming these
    days: jillions of files, convoluted logic, abstraction for its own
    sake, zero comments or visible context, all based on a language that
    was designed to substitute sequences of punctuation marks for keywords
    (which is literally why they call it "code").

    Modern CS education scoops up masses of youngsters like herring in a
    net, and teaches them how to code and how not to think. A Fellow of
    United Technologies made that same comment to me two days ago.

  14. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Hello John,

    Within just a few hours there were dozens of posters in the German forum
    who said pretty much what I thought they would: The "shortage scare
    stories" appear quite regularly but in reality there are lots of
    unemployed engineers. There are positions that remain unfilled but they
    hinted that's because these offer a "salary" that won't even pay rent
    and food. IOW, you could make more money driving a cab. I have seen that
    in the US, too. No kidding, someone was looking for a chip designer at
    $35k a year. Probably w/o benefits...

    According to the thread there are engineers in Germany who have
    graduated a year ago and after oodles of resumes are still looking for a
    job. Well, I guess there is the real story.

    Regards, Joerg
  15. I read in that Joerg <[email protected]
    Maybe with free wine, Chinese food and personalized owl...(;-)
  16. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Hello John,
    Or maybe you can opt for the occasional free ride in a tuk-tuk ;-)

    Regards, Joerg
  17. Jim Thompson

    Jim Thompson Guest

    I've got the owl, but I'd like to see your attempt to "personalize"
    him ;-)

    ...Jim Thompson
  18. I read in that Jim Thompson
    Well, you already have a personalized gazelle, so all you need to do is
    find a new species of the Strigidae. (;-)
  19. Terry Given

    Terry Given Guest

    Hear Hear!

    Have you read the various articles about the space shuttle software
    team? their error rate is about one bug per 400,000 lines of code. And
    99% of their debugging is done *BEFORE* writing any code - the
    "thinking" to which John is referring.

    Most "programmers" are little more than typists. ISP has caused a whole
    host of problems, simply because it enables lousy programmers to fix
    their fuckups relatively easily - this tends to encourage sloppy (or
    more often non-existent) design.

    Typing should be the *last* step in writing software, not the first. And
    I am constantly horrified when I hear programmers saying things like
    "try this, it might work" - to me, that indicates a distinct lack of

    The AC drive manufacturer I first started working with *REFUSED* to hire
    CS grads at all - only EEs with ME or PhD (until me, the start of a
    slippery slope downhill :). The reasoning? CS people think of bugs.
    Engineers think of things like "my crane controller is holding 200 Tons
    of steel above a roadway, I'd better not **** up"

    And even then, *ALL* hardware was/is fully interlocked to prevent sw
    screw ups from causing wholesale destruction. Very handy when people
    doing debugging with an ICE pause the micro, suddenly applying DC to the
    little 10kW test machine spinning at 200% speed (a *very* loud bang
    preceded the motor rolling about the floor in this instance)

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