In case you haven't noticed, Planet Analog uses a wide variety of sources - financial research analysts, in addition to company managers, spokespersons and hands-on bench engineers - to assess where our analog industry is heading. Lately, the indicators are mixed: Never previously has the semiconductor industry shipped more product with less confidence about the future. In this environment, recruitment is a clear indicator of business confidence (or lack of it), but our analog specialist, Gary F
There's a lot of good news in the analog recruitment scene. A wide variety of companies from startups to multi-billion dollar conglomerates have requisitions out for analog engineering talent. There is strong demand for engineers with experience in RF ICs, Power Management, and PLLs, and that foretells continued future growth in the wireless and Consumer Electronics market areas.
In addition to design engineers, requisitions seem to be opening up in previously dormant job areas: Marketing, Sales and applications engineers. While these jobs entail a lot of communications with customers, the marketing manager's job assumes a support structure - at least a budget for travel and promotion. While design engineering talent has been among the "family jewels" of a semiconductor supplier - to be recruited and retained through a variety of economic conditions - marketing and promotion was always collapsible. The new requests for marketing help signifies a new level of confidence among suppliers of analog and mixed signal IC's - not since the Glory Days of 2000.
The request for applications engineers also anticipates a lot of customer contact. This poses an answer to the issues digitally-oriented customers have with incorporating analog part types into their systems. It also anticipates a new level in the complexity of the parts themselves - a recognition that the act of handling over a sample, a data sheet, an app note, or even an evaluation board my not be enough to facilitate a design. The apps engineers serve as in-the-field design facilitators and troubleshooters. The recruitment of applications engineers is an indicant that business will be good enough to support (and require) the efforts of these soldiers.
A possibly disturbing trend is the continued outsourcing of jobs. Many American companies are not only supporting the trend (hoping to reduce their labor costs), but actually advancing it by asking recruiters to help them find design engineering talent in places like India and China. We have difficulty complying with these requests for a number of reasons: While our resume database for India- and China-based engineers may not be all that large, one has to consider the business costs and returns of the recruitment effort. If the recruiter's accepts a Service Charge - usually calculated as percentage of the new hire's salary - the costs of conducting an overseas recruitment and screening effort are magnified by the distance, while the payoff for the recruiting firm would only be a fraction of the fee he'd get from recruiting in the US. Chinese engineering salaries, for example, may only be 1/10th of the comparable salary paid to US-based engineers.
For cost reasons, however, the outsourcing of jobs will continue, and it will be the younger, less-seasoned American engineers - recent graduates, in fact - that are most likely to suffer. If current trends continue, very few electronic systems and semiconductors will be designed in the US. Ten years down the road, all that will be left here is will be some high-level creative talent - system architects, perhaps - and advanced R&D. Certainly, the mental horsepower is here. But increasingly, the circuit-level design work (like manufacturing) will shift overseas.
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