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54 SMT Magazine • May 2016 Last month, in my inaugural column enti- tled, "The Importance of Being Ernest (Educat- ed)," I identified U.S. academia as "the emperor with no clothes" because of their self-congrat- ulatory nature—reveling in buzz acronyms like STEM, and suggesting that decades of a contin- ually widening gap between academic prepara- tion and industry needs in high-tech electronic product assembly has been magically closed just by talking about the "new religion," when, in actuality, little has changed. I went on to talk about the need to comple- ment an undergraduate engineering curriculum of primarily "learning for learning" with a com- mensurate dose of "learning for earning." Our industry has failed to challenge the "emperor" since our industry's domestic competition has been faced with the same education level of em- ployees that they hire out of school. However, I indicated that the competi- tive landscape over the decades has changed in several important ways, as we have con- tinued to tolerate the ill-prepared entry-level employee: 1. Low labor-rate global competition 2. The need for high engineering skill level employees to develop and maintain the leading-edge automation needed to reduce labor content as a way to com- pete with low labor-rate dollars. In other words, everything else being equal, if your direct labor rate is 10x more than your competition, but you find a way to reduce the labor content (labor hours) of a particular product by a factor of 10, you have removed the low labor rate competitive advantage—assuming that the low labor rate competition isn't able to automate as well. This rarely happens with minimum wage operators and sup port technicians (process "engineers"). by tom borkes tHe JeffersoN ProJect the Henry Ford division of labor Production Model juMPing oFF tHE bandwagon 54 SMT Magazine • May 2016

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