The Impact of Skill Shortages on the Race to Save Our Planet: Saving the World with Every Line of Code

November 21, 2019 David Sanders

Electronic innovations have provided us with many of the key tools needed to tackle climate change seriously. Renewable energies like wind and solar, depend heavily on advanced electronics in order to create the efficiencies required to make them economically viable alternatives to fossil fuels. In recent years, we have seen extensive improvements in the efficiency of solar panels, wind turbines, battery power, energy storage etc., all delivered through a new network of intelligent Smart Grid, Smart City and IoT Solutions.

We have also experienced major leaps forward in the automotive market with the introduction of fully electric and hybrid vehicles, major increases in motor efficiency, emission reductions and so on. Even LED lighting is making a significant contribution with up to 80% increase in efficiency over conventional lighting options.

According to a recent survey carried out by Research and Markets on predictions for the automotive market, “Increasing emphasis on zero-emission vehicles is likely to propel the growth of the [automotive] market”.

They also state, “Increasing concerns over air pollution and global warming have forced the governments of several countries to enforce strict emission policies and regulations for ICE vehicles. Increasing adoption of electric vehicles is expected to change the outlook of the automotive engineering services market. More EV sales would accentuate the need to develop new battery technologies, new chassis and exterior designs, and advanced transmission systems for these vehicles. EV manufacturers such as Tesla, Nissan, and BAIC outsource design and development of new technologies and solutions to tier 1 engineering companies. This trend is likely to grow with the rise in EV sales and would drive the automotive engineering services market during the forecast period.”

The Challenge

While it is clear that the electronics industry has a major role to play in tackling climate change, there are no shortage of challenges facing the industry when it comes to meeting environmental responsibilities. Perhaps the biggest challenge of all, lies with the industry’s ability to attract a major share of the world’s brightest scientists and engineers. This has become the biggest threat to advancement in recent times and is only expected to get worse in the future.

Global tech giants like Google and Facebook have been very successful in attracting many of the world’s brightest computer science graduates while semiconductor and electronics companies have been struggling to compete. This has resulted in a major shortage of talent in many of the core electronics engineering disciplines like analog & digital design, embedded software & firmware, power electronics, wireless communications etc., which has a major negative effect on the rate of development in the electronics industry.

The Solution can be summed up in 3 key factors

1) The whole electronics industry needs to rebrand itself as an exciting alternative to the development of video games, ecommerce systems, social media and modern business applications. New advances have led to a host of recent innovations such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, smart devices, 5G and IoT, so it really shouldn’t be difficult to get a new exciting message to bright young budding engineers across the globe.

2) Another part of the solution lies in the effective utilization of the existing workforce. Traditionally lab based R&D has always been housed in large industrial complexes based in various technology hubs in countries across the globe. This is no longer a valid attractive proposition, as much of today’s brightest talent is searching for more variety, flexibility and a better home / work balance in their lives. In order to compete successfully for the top talent, companies need big change.

3) Having access to a flexible workforce is also a key factor. The nature of today’s electronics industry is all based on rapid technological advances, shifting consumer trends and narrowing windows in ‘time to market’ for new innovative products. In order to remain competitive, companies will need to have a comprehensive approach to external flexible workforce options. Supplying this type of resource for today’s demands is one of the biggest challenges of the modern electronics R&D market and very few companies can offer the complete range of services.

Conclusion

Recent climate data suggests that many of the more advanced countries have already turned the corner and are now using less energy per head of capita than in previous years. The next steps are to find ways of accelerating these advances and to focus on effective ways of distributing these technologies to those countries lagging behind. Through a combination of strong public demand, governmental support, private sector innovation, new business disruptors, growth in talent pools and streamlined methods of distributing talent, we can all work together to achieve big change.

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