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Matching Job Requirements To Discipline Skills

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Non-Technical Skills in ET

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1035.1 - 12.1035.9



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Paper Authors


John Robertson Arizona State University

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John Robertson is Professor of Microelectronics at the ASU Polytechnic campus in Mesa, Arizona. He has extensive industry experience and has helped develop a new curriculum in Electronic Systems.

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Richard Newman Arizona State University

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Richard Newman is Director of Training at the ASU Polytechnic Microelectronics Teaching Factory. His background includes work in industry and the Community College sector. He also directs the recruitment team for the Electronic Systems Department.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Matching job requirements to discipline skills Introduction

A cursory glance at any electronics product is enough to show the extent to which functionality has improved and costs have been reduced in the past 30 years. It also means that in one generation, the necessary skills of an electronics industry professional have changed radically. In 1977, we were at the end of a 50 year period where every electronics engineer typically had to be able to start with simple electrical components and from them, design, assemble and evaluate circuits. It was a labor-intensive process that offered a great deal of individual choice in the selection of values and configurations. It was also a process that was easy to replicate in an academic department. Components were cheap and the design skills were well-suited to undergraduate teaching in any Electronics Technology department. However, electronics in that form has effectively disappeared so the provocative question is, “how have the discipline skills being taught in higher education institutions changed to match the new generation of job requirements?”

The technology change has been driven by the effects of increasing integration of electronic functions on silicon. The inexorable progress of Moore’s law 1 has allowed a relatively small number of companies around the world to produce powerful electronic functions that deliver super-computer performance on a single chip. The product is also delivered in high volume and at low cost. The span of design extends from atomic-scale features to systems that interact with a large proportion of the population of the planet. When we add the corresponding requirements for high reliability and low cost, the task of preparing competent professionals is clearly a big – and increasing – challenge.

The change in products has also changed the skills and jobs of the professionals who deliver the products. The electronics job of 1977 has now evolved into three different but interacting functions:

1. Design and construction of integrated circuits is concerned with delivering massive functionality on a silicon chip using a very capital-intensive process. It requires contributions from every engineering discipline (and others beyond engineering) working to extend the known limits of the science and technology. 2. Applications of these commodity components; chips, boards and higher levels of electronic functionality. The role is to interpret an ever-expanding range of user- requirements, define the best way to deliver the necessary system performance and then map out the path to deliver a competitive solution. 3. The “glue” that connects the above two functions is increasingly becoming a software task that is executed on an international scale. It covers the code used to program embedded computers and the specification of hardware for logic functions.

Each job category continues to evolve rapidly with new and more powerful tools and technologies. This paper examines some of the ways an academic group has responded to these new job requirements.

Robertson, J., & Newman, R. (2007, June), Matching Job Requirements To Discipline Skills Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1792

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