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Electrical Careers

Euro Graduate 2014

So great is the demand for electrical engineers that the University of Southampton has for the last five years invited employers for a dedicated annual careers fair. “Any country with an industrial base is crying out for well-trained engineers,” says Joyce Lewis, senior fellow for partnership and business development at the university’s Electronics and Computer Science department, which welcomes some 80 companies at its annual fair and has links to many more. An ageing skilled workforce across Europe has made the shortage more acute. “It’s an absolutely buoyant market – there’s a massive dearth of electrical and electronic engineers – I’d advise any graduate to think carefully what specialism interests them.”

Electrical engineering changes lives – from the first light bulb to today’s mobile phones and tomorrow’s nanotechnology. This year the government forecast growth in automotive, aerospace energy and medical sectors and set a target to create 150,000 skilled jobs within electronics by 2020. Southampton and many other universities regularly welcome companies such as Rolls-Royce, Jaguar Land Rover, Atkins, and technology heavyweights such as ARM; all of them seeking engineering undergraduates for summer internships as well as graduates.

From IT to energy, or communications to healthcare and large scale construction; electrical and electronic engineers are to be found across most sectors that shape how we live, and 75 per cent of them are in work six months after graduation with ten per cent going on to further study, according to latest government figures.

But many graduates overlook openings within smaller niche companies and consultancies, say universities – while these employers might lack the visibility and kudos of multinationals, they might offer greater responsibility sooner and more varied work – and many of them are involved in supply chains to blue chip companies.

It was the responsibility that Alisdair Muir relished when he joined Dialog Semiconductor after completing a summer internship during his engineering degree at the University of Edinburgh. “I’ve enjoyed having real responsibility from day one, says Muir who was swiftly promoted to an analog design engineer. “In Dialog you are trusted on bigger and important projects right away. This gives a feeling you are immediately helping the company hit their targets.”

While electrical engineers will often travel the world, Germany predictably offers the most opportunities for graduates within Europe, says David Wicks, managing director of the agency European Recruitment, with most jobs to be found within the automotive sector among companies such as BMW, Audi, VW and Mercedes. More broadly, companies such Siemens, Infineon, EADS, Bosch and Miele also welcome electrical and electronic engineers. “The semiconductor and electronics technologies across all sectors are quite strong, whether that be medical devices, telecoms, green energy, home appliances etc,” says Wicks.

While starting salaries of £20,000 to £25,000 within the sector are competitive, they lag those of finance and sometimes IT – both sectors which readily snap up engineering graduates. Yet most graduates do take up positions directly related to their degree, says Lewis, especially if they’ve completed a relevant summer internship. Some 10 per cent of Southampton’s electrical engineers choose to go on to postgraduate research. “This may be particularly important in areas such as nanotechnology and renewable energy,” says Lewis; however it’s rarely a requirement from industry.