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Design007-July2018

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22 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I JULY 2018 people into the hardware and software engi- neering ranks in robust numbers. Within the EE degree programs there exist no significant PCB layout training or coursework. The num- ber of academic institutions offering pathways into this very specialized profession of layout design is almost zero. There are a few isolated examples of suc- cess in academia. A few seminar classes are taught at trade shows. I have had the privilege to contribute and serve with EPTAC Training Center to provide the IPC CID/CID+ certifica- tion program. But this program has the goal of taking an existing layout designer and broad- ening his knowledge base concerning manu- facturing and electrical performance. It does not have the goal of creating a new designer. I have witnessed many people suggest that a simple MOOC-type class can be the solution to address the training need. Any designers worth their salt are laughing at this ridiculous perception because they know the realities and requirements of this profession. So, what are we seeing in response to the designer shortage? The industry is looking for the EE to perform the task of PCB layout because they are assuming the EE is higher up on the food chain (no offense intended), and therefore they can just assume the responsibil- ity of layout. Managers may provide EEs with EDA software design tool training. That is like assuming that knowing how to use a socket set makes me a qualified mechanic. This is also ridiculous logic! PCB design instructor Rick Hartley, who pro- vides advanced signal integrity training, typi- cally asks his students the following questions. To those who perform both schematic capture and PCB layout, he asks, "Which of these two capacities is more difficult to perform?" Most of the time the answer is, "Layout is more dif- ficult." Then a follow-up question is asked, "How did you learn to perform the layout por- tion?" Typically, the answer is, "The school of hard knocks." Another point of note is that your aver- age designer will perform layout after layout throughout the year, so they are continuously keeping sharp on their EDA tool and layout competency. They will be performing this for about 5-10 hardware engineers throughout the year. Do you think any one engineer once asked to do layouts will be performing layout for fellow engineers as a service or just them- selves? The engineer now being asked to do layout, who is untrained in layout, will per- form this portion of the development cycle about 3-5 times per year. At that rate of occur- rence, the electrical engineers' retention level is challenged, and proficiency will be difficult to maintain for both EDA tool usage and layout competency. What else are we seeing as a response to the shortfall of qualified designers in the indus- try? The outsourcing model has been around for several decades now. Most domestic U.S. designers are negative on outsourcing from a job security concern, while most foreign designers are hopeful for the same reasons. Most businesses are keen to this idea at first, but later they often regret it. With the current distraction of today's political climate of trade agreements and tariffs, we often love to accuse the other guy of creating this condition and the blame game is often fought by people blind to the truth—that it was businesses who wanted this and politicians on both sides delivered. Businesses are way more capitalistic than they are democratic. Trade agreements enabled the access to reduced labor costs for reasons of corporate profits (research the history of NAFTA). Businesses are now having sec- ond thoughts about the concept of outsourc- ing, because it has led to a significant loss of intellectual property, substandard quality/ producibility, and an increased frustration fac- tor. Please keep in mind the words of Hartley The number of academic institu- tions offering pathways into this very specialized profession of layout design is almost zero.

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