Taiwan faces a serious shortage of semiconductor personnel

If you are a PhD candidate in microelectronics in Taiwan, you don’t need to go looking for a job, because jobs are looking for you. “I haven’t applied for any positions and haven’t updated my resume for years,” said Ken Wu, who will complete his doctorate in June 2022 at Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, one of the schools. about Taiwan’s most prestigious microelectronics, said.

Over the past two years, Ken Wu has encountered a variety of approaches from top chipmakers hungry to fill the growing skills gap in the semiconductor industry. “I’m still in the process of getting my PhD and can’t get a full-time job. But I keep getting emails, calls from HR, even from some tech executives to see if I’d like to schedule an interview to learn more about the company and their department. are not”. Reportedly, among the offers, Wu chose to become a senior engineer at Macronix, a supplier of specialized memory to Apple, Nintendo and BMW, later this year.

Taiwan faces a serious shortage of semiconductor personnel - Photo 1

MediaTek and Taiwan’s largest chip maker TSMC are hiring a total of more than 10,000 employees this year

Wu is not an isolated case sought after. The semiconductor industry is in the midst of a hiring frenzy, racing to fill the void left by chip shortages over the past year and address demand from governments around the world in building localized supply chain construction. Nowhere is the pressure more acute than in Taiwan, the world’s cutting-edge chip manufacturing hub, where demand for engineering talent is growing at the same time as a growing number of graduates. narrow. Human resources experts, industry executives and officials interviewed by Nikkei Asia all share the same view: The talent shortage is now the most severe they have ever seen. Most expect the situation to get worse.

Tsai Ming-kai, President of MediaTek, the world’s leading mobile chip developer in terms of shipments, warned of possible significant consequences for Taiwan. “The shortage of talent in high-end chips will pose a challenge to the overall development of the semiconductor industry in the future.”

As of the end of 2021, Taiwan’s semiconductor industry has more than 290,000 people, compared with a population of 23.4 million. According to the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, this is up from 225,000 just two years earlier in 2019, and resource expansion is anticipated to continue. Taiwan’s two largest chipmakers, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) and MediaTek, are hiring a total of more than 10,000 employees this year, most of them in Taiwan.

According to Nikkei, the world’s fourth-largest contract chipmaker United Microelectronics aims to hire 1,500 people in Taiwan in 2022. Europe’s largest chip maker ASML said it will employ 1,000 people employees in Taiwan this year out of a total of 4,000 employees globally. Other chip tool and materials makers such as Applied Materials, Merck, Entegris will also add hundreds of jobs on the island this year. According to sources aggregated, more than 2,000 jobs are opening in Taiwan from leading US chipmakers Micron, Intel, Qualcomm, Nvidia and AMD, as well as leading Taiwanese chip developers such as Novatek, Realtek and Phison Electronics.

Small companies also need talent

In addition to large semiconductor firms, there is an ecosystem of smaller companies that are also in desperate need of talent for key chip development positions, manufacturing processes, data analysis… According to a survey from the background Taiwan’s largest local recruitment platform 104 Job Bank, the total number of vacancies for positions in the chip industry reached 34,000 in December 2021, an increase of nearly 77% from two years earlier. “We have never seen such a great appetite for talent in the semiconductor industry. It’s phenomenal,” said 104 Corp senior vice president Jason Chin.

This situation is causing disturbances in other industries in Taiwan and shifting the economic focus on the island. Taiwan’s west coast is home to a complete semiconductor supply chain, but TSMC last year announced it would build its next cutting-edge chip plant in the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung, which was originally a a traditional industrial center.

Mr. Tang Ming-je, President of Chang Gung University, said many bosses in the local petrochemical industries are crying out, because they may not be able to find jobs if a competitive employer like TSMC moves in. . According to Martin Wong, president of laptop maker Compal Electronics, the chip industry is “starving for personnel” which also makes it difficult for contract electronics manufacturers to hire people.

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The pressure is growing

“We are witnessing a new round in the heated race to secure talent,” said the CEO of a leading developer of display driver integrated circuit chips. American chip developers from Qualcomm, Intel to AMD have all flocked to Taiwan to expand their research and development (R&D) teams, because they also lack the talent supply for development in the US. “.

Johnny Lin, general manager of Netlink Communication, a start-up that develops chips for connected devices, told Nikkei that he recently lost a number of experienced engineers “because of big competitors and foreign bids.” 70% higher, or even double the package salary”. As a start-up, Mr. Lin’s company offers stock options as additional impetus. “But such an incentive may still not work when there are so many jobs opening immediately from the major multinational chipmakers.”

Massive recruitment around the world

Major global chipmakers have announced expansion plans worth more than $370 billion. Governments from the European Union (EU), to South Korea and India are increasing subsidies to the chip industry. Meanwhile, the US and China in their official statements emphasized the need to attract and retain chip talent to ensure the long-term competitiveness of the semiconductor industry.

More and more companies are turning to chip development, increasing the need for talent. Wealthy internet companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Alibaba, Tencent, and carmakers like Ford and Tesla are building chip design teams to gain more control over a key part of the chain. supply.

Opportunities for talented people

While the war for talent is plaguing executives and governments, it is in the interests of those with the right skills. “Most of my graduates have found jobs. More than a year before graduation, they already know where they are going in their first year after graduation,” said Hou Tuo-hung, professor of electronic engineering and vice president of R&D at Yang Ming University. Chiao Tung, said.

Henry Kao, a consultant at human resources firm Intelligent Manpower, said employers have significantly increased starting salaries for new graduates. “The increase in wages and the thirst for talent is not limited to engineers, but also extends to experienced professionals in the environment, health, legal and financial advisors to support the growth of the industry. “.

According to data from the Taiwan Labor Agency, the legal minimum general salary in Taiwan is NT$25,250 (about US$906) monthly, while the average monthly starting salary for someone in the industry semiconductor is about 52,288 Taiwan dollars. However, Nikkei’s interviews with executives and students show that major chip developers are willing to offer much higher salaries than this figure. For example, MediaTek’s monthly salary for graduates from top engineering schools amounts to NT$83,000.

Such wage inflation is what economics has predicted when supply and demand are out of balance. New STEM graduates, with bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math, have plummeted in Taiwan, from 116,000 in 2011 to 92,000 in 2019. The population The decline also makes it difficult to reverse this trend in the short term.

Taiwan’s semiconductor industry is seen as a key factor for the island to maintain its strategic importance and international alliance amid deteriorating relations with China. The government of Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen will spend at least $300 million over the next 10 years on education programs to support the industry.

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