@Garcia: ...the skills I learned have clearly improved my productivity as an embedded system designer.
YES!!! I wish I had captured everything so simply -- I totally agree -- you might be able to live without knowing how to solder ... but knowing how to solder can't hurt, and can make you more "useful"...
The nice bit was the tech saying "are you sure you don't want more time?" and there is me thinking "Why would I want that? It's done."
That saying, I wish we had been taught SMD, it was only 2001 when I graduated and while we did get enough (good) through-hole experience I am still struggling along with SMD. Heck, if I thought there was an amateur soldering course in London which updated people like me of an evening I would pay a little. But I can't justify a professional course in soldering because it doesn't impact my work.
I always love these stories. You never hear of things like this happening now. Frankly, I'd be freaked out if I was taken into a dark basement and told to assemble a board with a time limit. Maybe that is why you don't hear about it anymore, all of us young kids run screaming.
Many years ago, at the early stages of my career, I applied for a technicians job at a government agency. Being a communications engineer by trade they asked me many different questions. Every question they asked I answered at a technical specification far beyond that which they wanted because their concept of scale was very different to the experience I had ("Oh, you wanted one channel? Sorry I gave you a thousand"). Perhaps my fault for not realising, perhaps their fault for not being specific enough. But what really shocked me was when they asked me to do a soldering test.
They took me down to a basement workshop and gave me a "magic dice" kit to build, they said I had 20min. In just a few minutes I had finished and called over the tech, he said it was one of the best jobs he had seen. When I was returned to the interviewer I was concerned that they had the wrong man and later we mutually agreed that.
The job wasn't right for me, not because they wanted me to solder, because I don't believe I would have actually done any, but because the type of work I like doing doesn't require that of me. However, even now, as an executive, I am glad I know the hot end from the handle and that I can still fixs stuff in my workshop.
About five years ago, I worked for two years for an Electronic Manufacturing Service provider. The company hired me in order to both develop new embedded products and evolve the ones in production under customer request. Soon after, I realized that the lack of soldering skills I was suffering really slowed me at the time of building new prototypes.
Fortunately, some non high-qualified workers from the production line taught me some soldering basics and tricks that no one had explained me in my "formal" education. Even I'm so far from being a soldering expert --they called me the king of cold junctions--, the skills I learned have clearly improved my productivity as an embedded system designer.
Of course, being able to solder a QFN may be overkill... but not being able of replacing a single 0402 or even 0603 SMD component is a real disadvantage!!!