Let's face reality. It has been a very bad year for much of the electronics industry—a year full of bad financial news and, for engineers, a year of too many layoffs. The story of lost engineering jobs may itself have gotten lost amid the bigger stories of corporate downsizing, scandals, and bankruptcies. Still, it has some long-term implications, like what will happen when business picks up and companies are caught shorthanded? Also, after the experienced engineers are gone, who will mentor the new hires?
Although statistics could probably paint a more complete picture of what's been happening in the industry, my sense of the situation stems from personal contacts with colleagues past and present. For instance, on recent visits to component vendors, I heard tale after tale of staff reductions. The same message was replayed when I visited a former employer. But what made the greatest impact were the calls and e-mails of currently unemployed friends and former colleagues from the electronics OEM industry.
On more than one occasion I've been asked if I knew anyone who was hiring. Unfortunately, I haven't been much help in this regard. However, it occurred to me that I can point people toward a few helpful resources, specifically the trade shows and conferences that crowd the calendar from Labor Day through Thanksgiving. Engineers seeking new positions should consider these events as invaluable chances to network with peers, meet experts, take courses, and catch up with the state-of-the-art.
Although travel and conference expenses may discourage some would-be participants, realize that exhibits may be free on select days. As a start, consider some of the events in the power, packaging, and component areas:
- SMTA International, Sept. 22-26, Rosemont, Ill. (www.smta.org/smtai). Here, electronic assembly and ad-vanced packaging are addressed through 36 courses plus many sessions on emerging technologies, system-in-a-package, and so forth.
- Wescon, Sept. 24-26, Anaheim, Calif. (www.wescon.com). This oldie has new twists like exhibits (free!) and conference tracks on test & measurement, power parts, production and packaging, interconnects, and components.
- PCB East, Oct. 14-18, in Boxborough, Mass. (www.pcbeast.com), features timely tutorials and a host of technical papers on pc-board design.
- Convergence 2002, Oct. 21-23, Detroit, Mich. (www.convergence2002.org). A fascinating conference, it foretells the automobile's increasingly electronic future. You will hear prominent speakers from the automotive and electronics worlds.
- Light-Emitting Diodes 2002, Oct. 21-23, San Diego, Calif. (www.intertechusa.com). Don't be fooled by its title. This event addresses the serious topic of solid-state lighting.
- Power Electronics Technology, Oct. 27-31, Rosemont, Ill. (www.powersystems.com). This is a must for anyone involved with power-supply design.
- Power2002, Sept. 29-Oct. 2, Los Angeles, Calif. (www.power-conference.com). This is a great conference on batteries and power management for cell phones, laptops, and other portables.
My list only offers a sampling of the many conferences and trade shows on the horizon. Many more can be found online. In this era of specialization, the conference that most intrigues you may be one that's debuting this year. A newer event may seem limited in terms of the number of exhibitors, presenters, and potential attendees, but it could provide early access to resources in a field that has great opportunities for professional growth.