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Semiconductors – Facing severe talent shortage

The value of the semiconductor industry could grow from $600 billion today to $1 trillion by 2030 — and as the industry grows, there will be a severe shortage of talent to fill the jobs. 

“We need … to change direction in the next few years. We need to convince more of these students to come to the semiconductor industry, consider and prepare them for a career,” said Mark Lundstrom, a Purdue professor of electrical and computer engineering Said when discussing the US CHIPS and university science bill last month. 

These concerns were also voiced by other members during a panel discussion focused on workforce development. The CHIPS Act opens up more than $50 billion in government funding to advance the U.S. semiconductor industry, including $13.2 billion to fund R&D and workforce development. 

“The numbers you’re looking at…you’ll need about 300,000 people by 2030. I think those numbers are underestimated…we need more than 500,000 to 600,000 people in the industry to be successful,” SEMI CEO Officer Ajit Manocha said. Manish Bhatia, executive vice president of global operations at Micron, said in the discussion that the labor shortage has been formed over the past two decades and cannot be resolved overnight. 



Panelists described semiconductor work as engineers applying knowledge and skills to design, manufacture or use chips. These jobs exclude administrative, construction, human resources and other related jobs related to the semiconductor industry.  

The U.S. government considers semiconductors to be critical to national security, and the CHIPS Act is seen as a launching pad for promoting public-private partnerships. NIST and other U.S. agencies are working with chipmakers such as Intel and IBM to boost domestic research and workforce development. ”Over the last 30 years when I’ve been in the industry, we’ve all seen the migration of semiconductor manufacturing overseas, and now we have a lot of incentive to move it back, but everyone starts migrating at the same time,” said SkyWater Chief Executive Tom Sonderman said the company has a chip manufacturing facility in the United States.

But two points the panelists made stood out: Many students are not interested in engineering, and education has become unaffordable. 

“We have to realize that for the next 10 years or so, the pipeline is more or less fixed. If a kid doesn’t have algebra by seventh grade, they’re less likely to go to an engineering program,” Lundstrom said. explain. Enrollment in engineering programs at large universities is growing, but enrollment at smaller universities and community colleges is declining. 

“We need a long-term strategy to grow the overall STEM workforce. It’s a challenge when enrollments in major programs soar but district programs and smaller schools decline. We can meet that challenge,” said Lundest Rom said. The CHIPS Act focuses on creating more jobs for U.S. citizens, which can reduce vulnerabilities in the domestic chip supply chain. Half of Purdue’s engineering graduate students are international, Lundstrom said. Half of the new hires are graduate students and half are engineering undergraduates, Lundstrom said, mostly from within the country.

“Why don’t more American students go on to graduate school? You know, what they tell me is that they’re accumulating debt. An engineering degree is hard. They’re going to consider a graduate degree at some point,” Lundstrom said. Max Mirgoli, executive vice president for global strategic partnerships at the Interuniversity Microelectronics Center (IMEC) in Belgium, said the U.S. can learn from Europe, where kids go to college longer and are educated The cost is lower.

“It’s cheap to get a PhD. It costs only a few thousand euros. It’s a different dynamic, you get more PhDs in Europe than you do in Europe because it’s more expensive,” Mirgoli said. Panelists suggested some solutions to this problem. One is to encourage students to pursue “4+1″ joint degree programs, helping students obtain undergraduate and postgraduate degrees within five years. 

Another interesting proposal is the hiring of veterans who can be retrained to operate high-precision equipment. “These are some of the best workers we have in the industry for the most complex technical jobs,” SEMI’s Manocha said. SEMI runs several programs to reskill veterans to work in the semiconductor industry. Manocha invited more chip companies to participate in the program. 

There is also an opportunity to increase the number of women and underserved minorities in the semiconductor workforce, the panelists said. ”Students from underprivileged areas, who may be the first in their family to go to college, and they need a mentor to help them even decide what courses to take, apply for internships, etc. I think recently retired professionals can serve as mentors and inspire the next generation of students,” said UC Berkeley dean and professor of engineering Tsu-Jae King Liu.

Post time: May-11-2023