Reading time ( words)
The electronics industry is in a growth period. In 2015, the European electronics industry is set to grow by around 4% over the previous year. The demand for consumer electronics is growing worldwide year-on-year, driven by demand for TVs, headphones and high-definition sound systems. Within commercial and industrial industries, the requirement for smarter, more efficient electronics is also driving strong growth.
In the UK, the electronics industry contributes over £80 billion (approximately US$120 million) to the economy, representing 5.4% of UK GDP, employing over 850,000 people. There is, however, in many countries, a growing concern around labour shortages within the electronics industry, with worries over appropriate workforce skill levels growing.
The story is no different anywhere else, with American small/medium enterprises (SMEs) under similar pressure to recruit and train the most appropriate staff to undertake PCB design work. The U.S. is the world's largest producer of electronic products, accounting for around 21% of the world’s total.
A recent study found that 72% of manufacturers believe a labour shortage of electronic design professionals exists, and two-thirds have found difficulty recruiting production and design engineers in the past two years. One of the most adversely hit industries is PCB fabricators, designers and manufacturers, a sector of which 95% are SMEs.
As these companies look to cut costs and drive efficiencies to stay competitive, many larger organisations have considered moving manufacturing functions to other countries to take advantage of cheaper labour costs. This, unfortunately, only further compounds the reported skill shortages within the UK, Europe and U.S.
A recent study by IPC highlights a number of reasons for these concerning issues. Demand for talent in electronics manufacturing has grown faster than the supply, due in part to an ageing workforce. Another IPC study of the North American Electronics industry found that leading issues impacting recruitment included a negative public perception of the industry, job candidate salary and development expectations and continuous professional development opportunities within the industry.
Within the past few years, there has been a greater focus on encouraging young people into manufacturing and electronic industries, with the resurgence of apprenticeships and a greater push for organisations to work in unison with local government, business networks and education providers.
There are many examples of areas where these initiatives have been successful, such as one lead by the UK Electronic Skills Foundation, a great example of where bridging the gap between employer and education providers has helped to promote the industry. Electronics organisations from Cambridge held competitions for students in order to stimulate interest and raise awareness of the electronics industry and its career opportunities. It is hoped that projects like these will gain momentum and be championed elsewhere.
To read this entire article, which appeared in the May 2015 issue of The PCB Design Magazine, click here.