Educating the way to embedded electronics

Pete Leonard, Electronic Design Manager for Renishaw, talks about the lack of trained engineers, and how education can help

According to reports, around 32% of companies across multiple sectors find it difficult to recruit experienced engineers and employees from other science backgrounds. Many industrial sectors are now adopting technology, such as embedded systems, that require advanced engineering skills. The skills gap created by the growth of jobs compared to the number of engineering students threatens many businesses. However, the global adoption of embedded electronics has encouraged many employers to train engineers within the company, to bridge the skills gap and give future engineers the experience they need.

Here, Pete Leonard, Electronic Design Manager at global engineering technologies company, Renishaw, discusses the education and work opportunities available in embedded electronics engineering.

Embedded electronics involves a combination of skills in electronic and software engineering to design systems needed for specific and complex tasks. Embedded systems are found in many aspects of everyday life, from mobile phones, to control systems in cars or aeroplanes. Multiple sectors, including aerospace, medical and metrology instrumentation and control, employ embedded electronic engineers to ensure that systems interface appropriately with the real world and gather or process data as required.

Embedded electronic systems are often required to perform a wide range of tasks that expands every day. This means that engineers designing and controlling these systems have to continually learn new skills. The increasing variety of industries using embedded electronics allows design engineers in particular to gain experience working to different briefs, depending on whether the system they are building is to be used in aerospace, automotive or even consumer electronics.

Roles in the embedded engineering field can range from engineer to director level, giving embedded engineers many opportunities to work in their preferred sector as well as advance their career. Aspiring embedded electronics engineers can begin learning the necessary skills at school and progress through apprenticeships, higher apprenticeships and graduate schemes to reach their desired career path.

In order to succeed in a career in embedded electronics, both an understanding of electronics and an ability to develop software are required. This begins by choosing the right subjects at school, focussing on those relating to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Engineers are likely to use the skills that they learn during education for many years to come, but they must also pick up new skills in specific areas in embedded electronics, such as data manipulation.

Choosing to learn in an academic and work environment simultaneously gives apprentices like me valuable insight into working life and they allow us to gain a professional qualification. – Sam Buck, apprentice in embedded electronics

Embedded electronics engineers must also have certain soft skills to excel. Communication is important in this career as teams need to review ideas and help find solutions to software or electronic issues by working together as well as working closely with potential clients. Apprentices and graduates can also benefit from communicating with their peers to gain experience and better understand their role in a working environment.

While engineers need to communicate to solve problems as a team, they must also be organised and able to solve problems alone. When confronted with multiple system issues, engineers must use their organisational skills to prioritise complex tasks in order to efficiently complete the project.

Sam Buck, an apprentice in embedded electronics, joined the team at Renishaw after hearing about its outstanding reputation in providing opportunities for students and its dedication to reducing the engineering skills gap. Apprenticeship schemes, like Renishaw’s, allow students to earn their degree while gaining experience in a work environment.

“Choosing to learn in an academic and work environment simultaneously gives apprentices like me valuable insight into working life and they allow us to gain a professional qualification,” commented Buck. “Apprentices get to work on many projects in a company to gain in-depth knowledge of embedded systems to reinforce the core skills we’re learning at university. This makes sure we graduate with all the skills we need to become great engineers.”

In addition to learning at work and university, future engineers can benefit from personal research. As many sectors rely on embedded electronics engineers, it is important for students to look into the potential job titles and roles available and target their education to follow a career path that would suit their personal skills and interests. Engineers that choose to work in an area that they enjoy will be more successful as they are more enthusiastic when approaching new projects.

With the right education, from primary school to apprenticeships or graduate schemes, students can learn the fundamental skills needed in software and electronics. Companies like Renishaw offer these education schemes to give students the choice of how they wish to learn and succeed in embedded electronics engineering. Businesses that adopt schemes such as apprenticeships can also reduce any threat to productivity while supporting its future employees in their training.

To find out more about the degree level embedded electronics engineering apprenticeship at Renishaw visit their website here.