Here's my point regarding soldering techniques. I'm NOT suggesting that soldering is NOT important. For sure it is just as important today as it was in the dawn of the Electronics Era.
After graduating from college eons ago, and landing my first "professional" position as a junior project engineer, one of the first tasks that I was exposed to was a series of "lessons" in the proper use of the soldering iron & handling of "electronic" pliers (needle-nose, etc.) This was in the days when printed circuit boards were not as ubiquitous as today, and much chassis wiring was done point-to-point. These lessons were provided to me by the Manager of the Production Processes. Even though I had expressed the position that I had considerable experience w/ hand tools, soldering irons, etc., nevertheless, I was a student for a few hours total.
So, my point is that learing the correct soldering methods is NOT something for a college curriculum, but something that should be explained & taught at the factory-floor level.
As far as being subjected to courses & concepts that one may never use during his/her career, I say, BUNK! Having knowledge is NEVER a bad thing. The moe of it, the better. Furthermore, you might find yourself in a discussion or a venue in which there is discussion about something on the fringe of your concentration. Yet, listening to those in the group, you have a sense of awareness of the subject matter because you once were exposed to this topic.
Yesterday I repaired a Sony transistor radio, the power cord wasn't working nor were the batteries. I desoldered the a.c. inlet from the board (a solder terminal had gone 'dry' and cracked), took that apart and found the contact wiper of the d.c. cut-off switch was dirty. Cleaned everything out, reassembled the switch contacts and resoldered it – job done.
I can understand why present-day engineers working with SMD won't see the need to have any practical soldering or assembly skills like these. It's not even expensive to learn, but if I had a dollar for every mail I've had that said 'They don't teach us this stuff [soldering] at college', well, I'd have quite a few dollars anyway.
I wonder how much e.g. math theory is actually taught on the basis that you never know when it might be needed in the future, so should they not teach it? Or my school chemistry classes, which taught me how to make a simple condenser, in case I got stranded in a desert and needed to purify some, er, drinking water. Unlikely in England but you never know! :-)
Personally I think that adding more breadth to one's skills is not a bad thing. You just never know what you'll be confronted with in the future, and there's still a planet full of PTH electronics out there that takes more to fix than just swapping out boards. That's why I got mails from US Air Force techs in Europe trying to fix something, likewise the USMC, Coastguard and a guy trying to solder the refrigeration unit of an old Greyhound bus! None had any idea about using a soldering iron and they were completely mystified by the basic principles. The same basic soldering theory ports over to SMD reworking (I'm working on that).
As someone pointed out, for the upcoming generation there's also Raspberry Pi, Arduino and so on that need interfacing, so I'm sure there'll always be a need to develop little discrete I/O circuits that need to be experimented with and soldered together, as well as repairing them.
While it is true that fine-pitch SMT soldering is best left to experts with the right tools, there are still occasions when an engineer needs to solder something. For example, development boards often come with unpopulated connectors. These are usually 100 mil pitch thus easy to solder, but sometimes you see 2 mm or 50 mil. The Raspberry Pi board has several unpopulated connectors. In fact, its main 2x13 GPIO connector was originally supposed to be unpopulated so that users could install whatever connector was best suited to its use, but a BOM error caused it to be populated by mistake.
The Cypress PSoC 4 Pioneer board has two 10-pin JTAG headers for talking to its two PSoC chips. The one for the PSoC 4 is populated, but the one for the PSoC 5LP USB interface + debug controller is unpopulated. However, if you want to play with the PSoC 5LP (a much more powerful chip than the PSoC 4) at the JTAG level you can solder on a 10-pin 50 mil header.
There are also a number of FPGA and MCU boards with 100 mil DIP holes, which you can populate with 25 mil square pins for wire-wrap or 20 mil round for use in a solderless breadboard.
I've been able to solder since I was 12 or 13, though I hope I have improved since then. I can see why the average engineer would not have to get near a soldering iron, most stuff these days is SMD / BGA etc and can't be soldered manually anyway. Even thru-hole stuff is done (at manufacture, anyway) by wave soldering and other techniques. But is is a nice skill to have. I'm good at thru-hole stuff, but I'd love to have SMD reworking skills.
One complaint I have always had is that the automatic processes never put enough solder on things like connecting lugs, power jacks and terminal blocks on PCBs. If I had a dollar for every one of those I have fixed by cleaning up the joint and beefing up the solder, I'd be....well rich enough to buy everyone here a beer.
Betajet: I'm well aware of the modern power of word processing software. And, that's ALL THE MORE REASON why these mistakes should be few & far between. I can tell you for a fact that not a day passes in which I don't see a glaring example (oor more) of these errors, both in spelling AND in grammatical usage, punctuation, etc. And, that was/IS my point!!!! I wonder WHAT the modern generation of technologists actually learn during their time in college!??
@Curie_US wrote: Where have all the human copy editors gone?
They've all been replaced by spelling checkers and auto-correction :-) I still read a lot of print, and you never see etaoin shrdlu anymore, but you do see phrases repeated see phrases repeated and [subheading goes here] or [figure caption goes here]. However, since so much copy is online now, you can simply write cranky comments and the author will happily -- or grudgingly -- correct the text.