Just with an Electronics Engineering degree, most engineers feel they are ready for the market or are very sure that they can be trained for better. What most of them fail to understand is that even to be trained, there are a few skillsets and basics that are mandatory. With over three decades of experience in electronics product design and engineering in Govt., private, start-up and almost all sectors of the industry, Srinivas Moorthy, Advisor – R&D, Blaer Motors Pvt. Ltd. shares his views with Ankita KS from EFY Group on the hiring trends in the electronics Industry today. Following are his valuable insights…
Q. Is ‘quality talent’ a challenge that Electronics Design players are facing/going to face in India?
A. Yes, quality is a challenge especially in the volume needed. There is a ‘Supply – Demand Gap”. There is a huge gap in terms of quality engineers “who can be trained”. Big trouble I see is, that we are not getting even “Trainable Candidates” who can be trained. The useful candidates are in the range 2-3% only for hardware stream. If things don’t improve will hurt electronics manufacturing in India. Improvement can be possible with some out of the box thinking.
Q. What is the key technology skill sets that are in demand in the industry today?
A. With the hardware technology progressing fast compared to my days, today’s designing is much simpler in terms process with many components which we use to design discretely are available predesigned. IoT which is growing much faster has, however, put the clock back and we need solid Analog Design skill coupled with good power design especially with different power sources and battery technology. Equally wireless technology which use to be a sperate stream has got on to mainstream forcing the regular designers to have basic RF (Radio frequency) skills especially technologies like Bluetooth, ZigBee, LORA, etc.
Q. What is the trend in the hiring process you see in the electronics design industry today?
A. With the paucity of engineers with good basic skills in hardware (knowledge in Analog circuits and basic digital circuits) with good analytical skill for programming. Basic C language skill is a must. Unfortunately, most engineers lack basic programming skills leading to a huge shortage. Knowledge in RTOS (real-time operating system) and Networking can be taught but possible only when the basic skills are good.
Q: How would you advise an aspirant on the right steps to follow while applying for a job in electronics design sector?
There are 5 key elements every electronic engineer aspiring to become a designer should have;
- Strong basic skill in Analog & Digital circuit basics.
- Analytical ability to dissect a problem (this is one major problem that I found even experienced engineers and leading to career stall).
- Knowledge of Schematics Tools like OrCAD, Cadence Allegro or Mentor Expedition and basics of the schematic’s entry process. Even opensource tools like KiCAD will be helpful.
- Basic programming skill especially in C language. This is a must even for a hardware engineer as when the board must be tested the programming skill becomes handy. They should have the working knowledge of the tools used for Software development.
- Very good written and oral communication skill. This is becoming a big problem especially students coming from rural background. To tell the truth, this is one issue which most engineers suffer, and it is only with their personal effort that will help them to get over the issue.
Q. When you hire what are the key basic skills that you look for?
A. Basic skills that we look at are;
- Fundamentals in basic electronics (Analog and Digital Electronics) should be good.
- Should have the ability to understand a circuit and explain the function when given.
- Good in logical and analytical thinking as these skills are a must for circuit debugging and programming
- Ability to use test equipment like Scopes, Meters, Tools like the schematic Entry software like OrCAD, SPICE for simulation.
- Hands on experience in C Programming and Arduino (real Arduino experience helps in the basics of programming).
- Attitude to learn and ability communicate both in writing and oral communication of technical stuff.
Q. With smart cities in the picture, what are the talent requirements and in which all sectors?
A. With SMART Cities taking over the growth some of the skills are that needed are different from regular electronics.
- Knowledge of sensors and their interfacing (a skill missing even with master’s students).
- Different batteries and power supply systems for powering the IoT and Gateways.
- Different communication protocols covering Wireline (UART, I2C, SPI, Ethernet, RS485, Modbus etc.) and Wireless protocols like Bluetooth, ZigBee, LORA, WIFI, etc.)
- Knowledge of electronic manufacturing like SMT components, Reflow Soldering, Board Testing, and calibration of the electronic systems.
Q. Electric Vehicles are gaining potential today. What are the skill sets required for someone looking to work in this sector? What are the challenges faced in hiring here?
A. EV is the sunrise sector where the opportunities are very big but at the same time, the curriculum of engineering education is not addressing the need for EV. Something needs to be done to address the need immediately. Some of the skills which are in urgent need are;
- Different types of Motors BLDC, PMSM, DC Motors, and AC Motors.
- Different Batteries and battery management systems (Lead Acid Cells, Lithium Ion, Lithium Polymer and Lithium Ferro phosphate, etc.)
- Basic Power Electronics and components like MOSFETs, IGBTs, etc.
- Mechatronics components Wheels, Pullies, and belts, etc.
- Finally, Basic Control system knowledge for controlling the motors and other systems.
Q. What would be your advice to the academia–how should they reinvent their curriculum to create techies suitable for the industry?
- The present state of the curriculum is no longer relevant to the industries need. Expecting a continuous change of syllabus in the current bureaucratic university set up is also not possible.
- The only way to make the syllabus relevant is to get the industries near every college is to collaborate and ensure the contemporary technologies are taught. I remember when I use to teach in a national level institute, I had the flexibility of teaching what is relevant with the syllabus framework which was old but enabled me to teach what was relevant due to the flexibility given to the faculty. An approach like that is a must today.
- Another serious issue is the quality of teachers and their ability to teach. We have special courses for teaching in the school, but we don’t have any standard training for teaching engineering in the college. Many colleges I have interacted have teachers who came to teach because they didn’t get any other job. In fact, today master’s degree in Engineering is looked at only for teaching, because Industries treat both the bachelor and master are in engineering on the same scale. This has led to good engineers not being available for teaching.
- While engineering education has become private it has become an industry and owners don’t pay teachers well and good teachers don’t come to these colleges.
Q: What steps can academic institutions take to bridge the industry-academia gap for the electronics design sector?
- First, they must encourage industries with access to the college infrastructure for collaborating. Many small and medium industries don’t have expensive labs but colleges which have don’t help them and there is no opportunity for the Industry-Institute interaction. Baring the IITs other colleges have no interaction.
- Implement a compulsory 6 months Industry Internship like Medical Degree for students who opt for jobs. This will ensure they are skilled at least to a minimum level and they can be groomed further.
Q. What are the right steps to follow to become a successful design engineer?
A. Becoming a successful designer is not rocket science to learn there four key things that they must follow to become a good designer;
- Be strong in the fundamentals this is something which is the most required skill to be a good designer. Developing this skill needs lots of personal effort which the current day students don’t spend.
- Develop logical and analytical thinking skill, most students can’t think beyond a small thing. Today industry is going towards solutions and not just solving a problem. For example, let us assume if the designer must design a 3-channel temperature measurement system to send data to a central application. I have seen most of the students and engineers stop at a temperature sensor and a microcontroller. But the key is how the system will be powered and how it will communicate to the central cloud is not thought about. This leads to companies losing interest in current day engineers. The same is true for embedded software.
- Develop a keen sense of observation which is key for professional growth. I have seen engineers calling me for help saying the circuit is not working without even checking whether the circuit is properly powered or not!
- Read a lot. Unless you read you will not be current in the technology. Today the life of an IC is just about 5-6 years which means unless you keep abreast with the technology you will be obsolete soon.
Read more for more articles on career guidance and basic skills to get a good job in the electronics industry.