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Does the RF/Microwave Industry Need an Influx of Youth?

Companies should take steps to ensure that this industry becomes attractive to prospective young individuals.

One sentiment in the RF/microwave world concerns the need to bring more young people into the industry. Obviously, I do not know the actual percentage of industry people who have this view. However, I would say that RF/microwave engineering is generally considered a more difficult—and perhaps even less glamorous—career path than other fields.

Specifically, one could take a look at software engineering, which many would find to be an attractive career path. It would be pretty difficult to question a young person who prefers software engineering over RF/microwave engineering, especially when companies like Google offer starting salaries that are much higher than the typical starting salary in the RF/microwave industry.

With that being said, a career in RF/microwave engineering still has a whole lot to offer. Furthermore, the industry does seem to be making efforts to assist the younger generation. For example, this year’s International Microwave Symposium (IMS) has plans for a number of student-based activities. These activities include the student design competition and student paper competition, among others. On top of that, the Three Minute Thesis and Hackathon competitions will debut this year. These events are fresh new ideas that should be fun to watch.

Students and young professionals were also clearly a focal point at the recent 2017 IEEE Wireless and Microwave Technology Conference (WAMICON 2017). For example, a poster session featured various student research projects. A workshop was also held for young professionals. Much of the credit goes to people like Larry Dunleavy (Modelithics and the University of South Florida) and Tom Weller (the University of South Florida), who are helping the next generation of engineers.

One could ask the question: Does the industry does need more companies to attract and then mentor young engineers? While some companies are already going this route, maybe others also need to do the same. Of course, mentoring young engineers takes time and resources—and some companies may not be in a position to fully invest themselves on that level. Nonetheless, companies should take steps to ensure that this industry becomes attractive to prospective young individuals.

On a final note, Altair recently announced its 2017 FEKO Student Competition, which is an international contest that is intended to support engineering education. The deadline to submit an entry is October 31.

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