Anyone who has waited for the shipment of a smart appliance or automobile understands that semiconductor chips, specifically chips made in America, are needed more than ever. Semiconductor chips are found in almost every electronic device today, from the Alexa that wakes you in the morning and the phone that sends your messages, to the traffic lights that control traffic.
The semiconductor shortage (and related talent shortage) America has experienced these past few years has been waived away as a “supply chain” issue exacerbated by the pandemic, but the problem goes much deeper.
Today’s domestic share of integrated circuit manufacturing has dwindled to a fraction of what it once was. A recent article stated that in 1990, the U.S. portion of commercial chip manufacturing was 37 percent, and the share has withered to 12 percent. Instead, many small electronics have been built overseas in Southeast Asia, primarily in Taiwan and South Korea.
Bringing Integrated Circuit Manufacturing Home
Congress and U.S. chip makers have taken significant steps to turn the ship around this year. Still, it will require time and an all-hands-on-deck effort to educate and recruit professionals to rebuild the domestic production of semiconductor chips.
Last July, Congress passed the CHIPS act with great fanfare. The act directs $77 billion in subsidies and tax credits for companies that design and builds integrated circuits in America. The package routes $39 billion in direct financial assistance to companies building chip manufacturing plants in the U.S. Another $11 billion is for advanced chip manufacturing research and workforce training, and $2 billion steers lab innovation into military and other applications.
Companies have already announced plans to take advantage of the incentives:
- According to CNBC, Intel pledged to build a $20 billion chip plant near Columbus, Ohio. When built, it will accommodate 3,000 workers. However, an updated report states that Intel is now talking about expanding its investment in Ohio to $100 billion.
- Micron shared its plans to spend $40 billion through 2030 on manufacturing facilities in the U.S. It says it will ultimately create up to 40,000 new American jobs, including approximately 5,000 highly paid technical and operational roles.
- GlobalFoundries announced its plan to expand a New York plant.
- Samsung is considering building plants in Texas at the cost of almost $200 billion.
These are great developments, but there is still a talent shortage in the semiconductor industry to address.
A Variety of Jobs and Responsibilities
The challenge now is training and attracting the talent to fill those jobs in the semiconductor industry. According to Simplilearn, there are more than 24,000 job openings for Internet of Things (IoT) professionals worldwide, with an average salary of $150,000. IoT infrastructure jobs deal with internet connectivity with devices, which include electronics and other forms of hardware and processors.
The ever-growing use of electronics and computer systems means a soaring demand for engineers who design and create the materials for these devices. However, chip manufacturers are having a hard time attracting talent.
According to Indeed, semiconductor engineers create electronic circuits for various electronic devices by etching conduction pathways into silicon wafers, which creates the semiconductor. These engineering jobs can include:
- Identifying and resolving technical issues
- Developing software, interfaces, and other structures
- Creating and reviewing test documents
- Crafting semiconductor devices and products
- Testing products for safety and quality assurance standards
Boosting Interest in Semiconductor Careers
So how do we connect career-minded folks with the wealth of semiconductor opportunities in the U.S.? Let’s explore some ways to address the talent shortage in the semiconductor industry.
1. Change the Industry Perception
Computerworld interviewed Tony Chan Carusone, CTO at Toronto-based semiconductor company Alphawave IP, who said that there is a perception that semiconductor manufacturing is a staid industry. It is regarded as less exciting, with fewer career development opportunities and wealth creation than the software industry. Carusone explained that, in reality, the industry is much more than workers in white bunny suits performing manufacturing on the factory floor. He said the hardware industry is where a professional can hit the ground running and have an immediate impact. “There’s already a lot of abstraction involved,” he said. “For example, if I’m designing a chip, it’s writing code these days.” He added that the industry is dynamic, whether a worker is developing a software product or performing the coding and design of a hardware product.
2. Show Clear Opportunities for Talent
In addition to providing competitive compensation, companies need to show clear career paths for candidates to work on industry-leading solutions. Carusone said his company’s stability, growth, and profitability are major selling points in attracting workers. In the semiconductor industry, “there is a global war for talent,” he said.
3. Demonstrate Industry Innovation
One area of innovation and opportunity lies in new chip designs. A growing market is application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), chips customized for a specific product or use. If a company can design a chip for a particular application, it can own that market.
4. Incentivize More Electrical Engineering Graduates
According to Carusone, universities aren’t producing enough electrical engineers. He said students are attracted to the software side, where there is plenty of demand. Still, the result is that universities are structured so that computer software is cannibalizing electrical engineering programs. To compete, semiconductor companies are increasing compensation.
Another area of emphasis cited by experts is for the U.S. semiconductor industry to increase its investment in youth STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and programs.
Talent Shortage in the Semiconductor Industry: The Need for Coding Skills
Carusone said the industry needs people with coding skills. “We write code that describes a chip design and then put it through compilers that get turned into silicon,” he said. “We need people writing code to validate those designs; we need people writing firmware that will ultimately run on those chips. And we need a way to ensure that firmware will run on our hardware, and it’s all going to work on the application before we get the hardware back from fabrication.”
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Explore the Possibility of Fixing the Talent Shortage in the Semiconductor Industry
The semiconductor industry also needs to emphasize and encourage professional upskilling, particularly as automation in the industry increases and displaces some workers from traditional roles. If you’re wondering how you can take advantage of the wealth of opportunities for talent in the semiconductor industry, consider enrolling in Simplilearn’s Introduction to IoT Training Course. This is a great first step to gain an understanding of an industry that relies heavily on specialized chips.
Simplilearn’s Introduction to IoT Training Course explores the wide range of IoT business opportunities in the healthcare, automotive, and manufacturing industries. It teaches IoT concepts, methodologies, tools, and how it helps improve business results.
Simplilearn is the world leader in helping professionals upskill their portfolios by offering flexible, online learning bootcamps. Simplilearn is the perfect resource for those aspiring to take their career to the next level.