Related to this... I'll never forget what one of my engineering classmates said during one of our labs where we had to use test equipment on our breadboard circuits. He said that it was stupid we were wasting our time using physical hardware to prove that the simulations of the same circuits were the same. Apparently the school (University of Central Florida) had failed to make him understand the difference between simulation and reality. Wow.
The lack of solder expertise may be complained. But many current EEs are also unable to perform a clean measurement. - Not even when the techie has soldered the probes into the circuit under inspection :)
In my time (the dinosaurs were extinct just recently) not all of my fellow students were capable of soldering, measuring or what you'd consider the "classical"skills expected from an EE. With the professional focus shifting towards software, programming, 'configuration' or "model based software development" (!!) etc. the "traditional skills" are vanishing. In effect these guys are unable to locate the errors when model meets reality :) I'm sure that more than one project died when colliding with reality.
Anyway, soldering is only ONE skill of a lot of technical skills required by reality. The more skills you have honed, the more likely it is that you will get the most "interesting" tasks when others have failed. It won't bring you a management career (engineering management does not require any engineering skills) but it might bring you the diversity others will never experience. And a bit of reputation.
BTW: Recently a colleague asked how to get the "interesting" tasks I'm working on. The answer: "Identify an issue the colleagues have failed to solve during the last 10 years. Find a new, promising approach. The find someone with a budget ..."
Someone who solders daily is always better than the occasional participant.
The lack of any actual skill is the reason I typically have any intern or junior engineer I work with spend time in the lab soldering and de-soldering on scrap boards. They stay at it until the head tech agrees that they have enough skill to no longer be a danger to the boards (or themselves). Unfortunately, there have been a couple over the years that just could never get it, but most take to it fairly quickly.
Normally it is the tech's or assembler's job to do the soldering, but I've been in a few situations over the years where I really needed some soldering done and no one was available to do it other than myself. Months ago I was able to replace several basic, surface mount logic ICs that were fried to get a test box's JTAG port back up and working. My pre-engineering days as a calibration/repair tech also pays off in other ways. I'd really like to be in R+D where I can have lots of hands-on and do everything (electronics design, programming, prototype building, etc.). I'm still searching for that dream job...
If working in a commercial enviroment as opposed to been a hobbyist then I would say that if you have the chance to learn any of the skills in designing and producing all stages of a product then take the plunge. I could solder as a junior school pupil and by the time I had an interview for an electronic apprenticeship I was been quizzed on what I had just built and all the technical terms associated with it ( An Audio power amp as it happens, THD, RMS and peak power etc ) But I involved myself with all activities as required and beyond of my apprenticeship. Later on that came in useful that I could do things that were needed in a hurry in any dept. as the people there knew that I could do it to at least the required standard that they expected.
@Dither: Here the feeling is that soldering is a tech's job not the job of an engineer. So stuff like that is not really shown to students.
Do you think a technician has more or less respect for an engineer who cannot solder? For myself, I think that if I were working on something with a technician and I picked up the soldering iron and created a few perfect joints, when I wandered off he or she would think to themselves "Wow, Max isn't as stupid as he looks*"
NASA's Orion Flight Software Production Systems Manager Darrel G. Raines joins Planet Analog Editor Steve Taranovich and Embedded.com Editor Max Maxfield to talk about embedded flight software used on the Mars on EE Times Radio. Live radio show and live chat. Get your questions ready.