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

May 9, 2019
Recognizing the importance of youth, this year’s International Microwave Symposium places a significant emphasis on students and young professionals.

Two years ago, I wrote a column titled, “Does the RF/Microwave Industry Need an Influx of Youth?” Now, as the entire industry prepares for this year’s International Microwave Symposium (IMS), it may be worthwhile to once again ask this question.

At a recent industry event on Long Island, I heard one of the speakers say during a presentation that “we’re not graduating many RF engineers.” If that’s a true statement, where does that leave this industry? And is the industry doing enough to attract the next generation of engineers?

The latter question can be addressed somewhat by looking at the program for IMS 2019. This year’s event places a heavy emphasis on students and young professionals, evidenced by activities like student design competitions, as well as a student paper competition.

Another competition intended for students and young professionals is the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, which returns to IMS for a third year. In this competition, contestants will give a presentation lasting three minutes or less that’s supported by only one static slide.

It doesn’t stop there: IMS 2019 also features student volunteer opportunities and a student career fair. In addition, there’s the STEM Experience for Students and Teachers, which is a one-day event that introduces middle- and high-school students—as well as their teachers—to the world of microwave engineering.

Not to be outdone, the technical program includes the RF Boot Camp, a one-day course on RF basics. No doubt, students and young engineers stand to benefit from attending the course.

All of these activities demonstrate that the IMS steering committee is dedicated to attracting the next wave of engineers. One question that lingers, though, is whether employers are even willing to send younger engineers to IMS. After all, companies obviously need to spend money to send their personnel to events like this—and some may not consider it to be a worthwhile investment to allow younger staff members to attend. In any case, companies should recognize the value that younger engineers bring not only to themselves, but to the entire RF/microwave industry. It goes without saying that there’s no future without them.

Finally, to those attending IMS this year (no matter your age), enjoy the show!