A silicon wafer about 20cm in diameter containing hundreds of individual integrated circuits, before they are cut apart. The rainbow colours are because there are very thin layers of silicon which the light can penetrate and be reflected from the layers below, just like an oil film on water.

I’m not sure why – maybe it’s Engineering Week or something – but engineering as a career was the topic of discussion on Life Matters on Radio National this morning. I’ve got to hand it to Natasha Mitchell, she has a degree in engineering so she’s qualified to speak. I wish I knew what branch of engineering:

  • Mechanical
  • Civil
  • Structural
  • Mining
  • Petroleum
  • Electrical
  • Control and telemetry (SCADA)
  • Electronic
  • Communications
  • Computer
  • Information Technology
  • Aeronautical
  • Biomedical
  • Aerospace
  • Nanotechnology
  • Chemical
  • Process
  • Manufacturing
  • HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning)
  • Highway

As they said in the interview, all people can think about when you mention engineering is train drivers and mechanics. As shown above, it’s a huge field and if you can’t find a niche in one of those, you must be brain dead.

But my line, electronics, is especially the future proof way of job security. (I don’t have a degree, but I have a three year full time Technical College Diploma.)


Software design of an integrated circuit on a PC. As you can see, this is Windows software. You could do this yourself at home.

Look at all the jobs and professions that are either disappearing or being taken over by computers and automation. Even journalists are now a disappearing breed, replaced by software that can write reports!. Anything in finance is also under threat.

Electronics engineering is future proof. When you’re the person who designs the systems that automate the world, and you’re the only people who know how they work, you’re in job security plus.

Electronics is FASCINATING. There must be few other vocations where your job can also be your hobby. I loved my work and I was proud to call my self an electronics technician. And I had job security in spades. I never feared being laid off, as many were at Channel 7. Sure, I was offered voluntary redundancy and I took it, but it wasn’t because the work disappeared. They just wanted to get rid of older people and staff numbers in general. The poor guys remaining just had to take on my former workload. The work hadn’t gone away, it wasn’t made redundant.

The depressing thing was listening to the engineers being interviewed this morning. Of four people including the host, all had engineering degrees, three of them were women, one woman had a PhD, one woman was a Reserve Bank board member and the one bloke was a professor of engineering. All of them were lamenting the low level of interest in engineering as a career in Australia, the poor standard of maths teaching in schools, the low level of computer programming being taught in schools and that all the Asian countries are bursting with talent in these fields. We are going to be left way behind – we already are! As well, there’s no interest in investing in new technology in Australia. How can there be when the Coalition government is actively discouraging it.

I can’t see things changing. This country is being left behind, anyone with any drive has to go overseas and the expertise we need depends on migrants, often from Asian countries. No hope, I’m afraid.


Integrated circuits (microchips) on a silicon wafer about 20cm in diameter, before being cut up and separated. Each individual IC would be smaller than your little fingernail. They are too small to be picked up except by little suction devices.


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