I'm still fresh out of college, and unless you're specifically working on an electronics project or a side/personal project involving electronics, you won't ever need to learn how to solder. I can think of two, maybe three, times during my entire time at college where I needed to solder in class, and because all of those times were in groups, it was completely possible to go through college without having to solder at all.
Personally, I love Adafruit's guide on the subject. I suggest it to anyone and everyone that wants to learn to solder properly.
Unless someone is a hobbyist, you can get away without ever having to use a soldering iron. It's unfortunate, but a sign of the times. maybe soldering as a whole just isn't as important as it use to.
Unfortunately most cannot communicate well either at least in the formal methods required to effectively translate marketing documents to engineering specifications, to communicate with customers in order to effectively translate their requirements into product features, and within their own organizations such that engineering becomes an integral part of the corporate direction, not just a resource.
Of course, many electronics engineers are really software engineers and/or do work primarily with FPGAs, simulation, etc. that does not require soldering skills.
I can't write in cursive anymore either, but then again I rarely need to.
Teams are larger than they used to be and skills more specialized. I think it is just evolution. What we need to be worried about it is key soft skills that are portable across all specializations.
Some engineers go in to engineering because it was a life goal ... to build things. They were probably hobbyist and tinkerers since they were a kid. Others pick it like any other "pick" career. Not because they are passionate, but because it is a way of earning a living. My guess is those are the most likely not to know how to use a soldering iron (or own their own).
Soldering, as a whole, is more important now than it ever has been. With all the BGA and QFN devices on a PCB, the ability to securely attach the device to its pads is more important ( and difficult) than in the past. Hand soldering, while less used in production devices, is a needed experience for a new engineer. Just so that they can have an appreciation of the process that is used to create a board. I do feel very old now, as the first boards that I layed out were with mylar tape on clear plastic at 4:1 scale.
@MrCruz: Unless someone is a hobbyist, you can get away without ever having to use a soldering iron. It's unfortunate, but a sign of the times. maybe soldering as a whole just isn't as important as it use to.
You may be right -- I came from a world where everyone was pretty much expected to be able to do anything (apart for the software developers of course ... bless their little cotton socks) ... but there's something inside me that screams "No!" at the thought of someone wandering around saying "I am an electronics engineer" if they can't handle a soldering iron...
@Jack.L: Unfortunately most cannot communicate well either at least in the formal methods required to effectively translate marketing documents to engineering specifications...
I agree -- communication is something that should receive more emphasis at college ... having said this, I know that I had no interest in learning these skills when I was a student...
But another part if this is mentoring -- when I started out, the big companies assigned each new hire to a mentor who taught them the real-world ropes ... now new employees are left to sink or swim on their own...
"I can think of two, maybe three, times during my entire time at college where I needed to solder in class"
Or zero times, and that was also true when I was in school back in the '80s. In electronics lab courses, we usually built analog circuits on solderless breadboards and digital circuits were wire wrapped. My soldering experience was solely from hobby activities, tinkering with circuits at home.
It wasn't until after I started working in industry that I learned how to properly solder, and how to recognize good solder joints from bad ones. On the job training. But to be honest, none of us (engineers) ever came close to the soldering competency of our best technicians and skilled assemblers. When working on prototype boards, you could usually tell which solder joints had been done by a tech and which had been done by an engineer.