July - August 1999
eMail the Editor
New Graduates May Lack Experience
But Offer a Solid Knowledge BaseBy Dr. Guna Selvaduray
Quite frequently I receive calls from friends and acquaintances in industry who want to fill positions that either have become vacant or have been created due to the expansion of their business.
Almost invariably, everyone is looking for someone with a minimum of three to five years experience in a specific technological area, and they want this person yesterday. Without doubt, being in the university, we do not produce graduates with even one year of experience in a specific technology-let alone three to five years.
At times like these, I do my best to convince my friends in industry that if they are willing to be somewhat patient, they will do well by hiring a fresh graduate who is not just bright, but also has a solid understanding of the sciences, excellent hands-on skills, is reliable and personable. In the long run, I emphasize, they will be much better off with this new graduate over someone with the "correct" experience who does not have the technical and scientific understanding of the processes.
Repeatedly, I keep coming across "professionals" who have the right experience and know how to use the correct buzz words, but do not have the technical and scientific knowledge necessary to solve the problems that can surface when a process malfunctions.
At such times, there is frequently a flurry of activity, and every possible solution is tried out, until something works. The moment the problem is "apparently fixed," the activity is dropped, and pursuit of the fundamental cause of the problem is abandoned-at least for a while, until it surfaces again.
A "good" engineer will not just have the requisite experience, but also the fundamental knowledge upon which that experience can be made to flourish. Experience without knowledge does not enable the individual to extrapolate himself/herself into uncharted territory. On the other hand, a solid knowledge base is very versatile and is applicable to a wide variety of areas, regardless of whether one has had the specific experience or not.
Let me illustrate: Someone who has seen several binary systems where intermetallic compounds are formed may remember the process and will be able to recognize these systems, they may not however, be able to predict if intermetallic compounds will form when new combinations are presented. Alternatively, a metallurgist with a good understanding of metallurgical thermodynamics does not need specific experience in microelectronic packaging to predict if a certain system will react to form intermetallic compounds.
Of even greater importance is the ability to distinguish between equilibrium and non-equilibrium processes and the types of compounds that are formed. To understand this difference, and use it advantageously in processing, the requisite scientific understanding is critical.
As the microelectronic packaging industry continues to expand, there is no doubt that there will be a continuing need for good engineers.
If universities are to be able to produce graduates familiar with microelectronic packaging technology, then industry needs to become more directly involved with academia and university curricula.
However, industry needs to keep in mind that the business of universities is to provide their graduates with a "good education"-one that enables them to continue the process of lifelong learning, so that as technology keeps changing they can continue to keep abreast of it.
Consequently, it is critical that we make sure that we do two things at a minimum: first, work collaboratively with universities to make sure that they maintain high standards; and, next, actively recruit fresh graduates while encouraging them to build their experience on a solid understanding of the fundamentals.
Prof. Selvaduray is chairman of the Material Sciences Department, College of Engineering, San Jose State University, and an editorial advisor to Chip Scale Review. Readers may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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