Monday, July 27, 2015

Engineering Talent Supply and Demand -- What's your opinion?

Is there and engineering shortage -- or not? Should U.S. companies try to hire domestically, or just "go global?" Is there a moral stand to take, or should we allow the matter to become laissez faire?

So many complexities; so point-of-view dependent!

(I'm a U.S. parent) "Throughout their school years we've emphasized the importance of STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and math) courses to our children. We wanted them to have technical minds and aptitudes, and degrees that would prove a certain mental acuity that would improve their chances for a great career -- even better than their parents. We've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to this end!

(I'm a non-U.S. parent) "We've done the same, and spent even more -- much more -- sending our children to U.S. universities.
(I'm a corporate hiring officer) "We can't find good engineering talent, and have a hard time keeping it when we do. U.S. candidates have such high expectations: security, flexibility, and excellent wages, too."

(I'm a U.S. engineering graduate, recent) "I need to build my project portfolio (and not maroon myself into a long-term project or position early on) in order to increase my value in a volatile job market where I can either float to the top or sink as a replaceable commodity."


1) At the 2014 Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA) 16th Annual Outlook Conference, Carl Camden, CEO of Kelly Services, pointed out that 600,000 manufacturing jobs went unfilled last year because managers said they couldn’t find qualified talent (OESA’s own research shows that three out of four North American automotive suppliers are having trouble finding engineering candidates). He went on to recommend analysis techniques to forecast and manage a company's "talent supply chain" and to embrace the concept of just-in-time talent acquisition for skill-specific positions.
Of course, his point of view comes as CEO of Kelly Services...temporary employment services.

2) The National Center for Education Statistics reported that in 2009 only 54% of recently graduating engineers found employment in their field, and only 61.3% found employment in their field or a closely-related one. The rest? Among math and computer science recent grads, 61.9% found employment in their field or a closely related one.

3) For FY2015, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it received about 172,500 H-1B petitions (for temporary visas to fill engineering and/or technical positions in for-profit non-university positions) during the filing period which began April 1, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. On 2015 April 13, the USCIS reported receipt of almost 233,000 H1B petitions, well in excess of the limits of 65,000 for the regular cap and 20,000 advanced-degree exemption. (

QUESTION AND ONGOING DEBATE: Should the H1-B cap be raised in view of reported shortages? Is there a shortage at all? Should recent U.S. STEM-related college grads be "protected" in the U.S. job market? Should we just go to a "global" talent supply chain?

Like so many issues, it depends on your point of view. Let's hear yours.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Wireless Charging -- Wave of the future?

In 1893 Nikola Tesla used wireless power to illuminate light bulbs at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. But compared to direct wiring through various connection types, relatively few applications have utilized electromagnetic or radio frequency energy for the purpose of power supply or transfer since that time.

As we all know, efficiency is the issue. Placed together closely and positioned correctly, two coils can transfer power via magnetic induction quite efficiently. Increase the distance or jiggle a coil and efficiency drops significantly. This was recognized early on (certainly by 1893), has not changed, and won't.

But what has changed is the decreased power levels that our everyday (electronic) devices operate at, and our ability to modulate with tuned resonant-frequency circuits that can optimize power-transfer efficiency with changes in distance and position. Also changing is our much improved battery technology and our increased dependence on battery-powered devices.
In effect, we need less power, can store more power better, and can inductively transfer it from source to battery better than ever.

Thinking big, one can envision electric trains without 12,000 volt overhead catenary wires, electric cars with drive-up non-contact charging stations, drones that can charge up during flight. Thinking small, any handheld power device becomes a candidate for wireless charging (LED lighting, phones, cameras, tablets, etc.), simply out of greater convenience. Thinking safety, anyplace an electrical device is used in a wet area (countertops), or where a cord gets in the way (power saws and other tools in a cluttered garage -- my favorite) comes to mind.

Of course, much of this is happening or in development right now. Three sets of standards, Qi, PMA, and A4wP, are competing to provide compatibility through uniformity of design and implementation.

Three ETI companies manufacture transformers, inductors and other magnetics-related products. They include Raycom Electronics, Hytronics, and Winatic. Naturally, we like to keep our eyes on "all things magnetic," and the future of our industry.
For years, the electronics industry has wrestled with connectivity issues as circuits have miniaturized. Wireless data transfer is solving much of the problem. But power charging through USB, mini USB, and micro USB has become bulky and even "iffy" as circuits and devices shrink. The connectors aren't made for hundreds and thousands of couplings and decouplings. They just break.

So bring on the type of charging that's kept our electric toothbrushes running for 15 years or more! Let's add some design preventions against vampire (always "on") power usage, and just go for it. To borrow (most of) Dupont's a old advertising slogan, it's time to leap ahead with "better living through magnetics."

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Declaration of Independence; And a Demonstration of Excellence. Big events on this July 4 weekend!

On Independence Day, with its parades, picnics, and fireworks, we celebrated one of the nation’s most important historic events 239 years ago. The Fourth of July has become such a relied-upon and regular event that most of us have our own ritual for celebrating it. 

In Canada, whose royalty calls our freedom day “Revolution Day,” the U.S. women’s soccer team had little time to reflect on the historical event. Three days earlier they had shut out the powerhouse Team Germany 2-0 in the World Cup semifinal. Still in Vancouver, British Columbia, the team would play Japan on Sunday, July 5 -- and this was no time for a letdown.
The Continental Army took a couple years to become effective, and a few more to turn a revolt into a national victory. It took the U.S. women just three minutes to score, and just 12 minutes more for Carli Lloyd to tally the first-ever hat trick in a World Cup women’s final. The game ended U.S. -- 5; Japan -- 2. 
And so, late on July 5, the U.S. Women’s soccer team gave us a second great reason to celebrate the weekend -- maybe not quite so consequential as the first reason -- but absolutely a very big win! 
By the way, the team members are also deeply involved in their own fundraising, so you might say they did it “on time and within budget.” 
Now that’s good business!