How the Semiconductor Industry Can Solve the Talent Shortage Crisis
June 21, 2021
By Elizabeth Prochaska
One of the greatest challenges currently facing the semiconductor industry is a shortage of skilled technicians. Fabrication plants across the world are struggling to find qualified workers to fill a surplus of open positions. The pool of qualified engineers who are not yet employed and willing to travel is rapidly shrinking. In fact, 77% of semiconductor executives believe the industry is experiencing a talent shortage crisis.1
This problem is going to increase as the semiconductor industry continues to ramp up activity to meet expanding needs for semiconductor devices. Intel has already committed $20 billion to build new fabrication facilities in Arizona. TSMC and Samsung also have multibillion-dollar plans to expand their production capacity in the United States. But these plants need more than just monetary investment. They need skilled workers to function.
In this blog, we explore how the semiconductor industry can fill the gap by making itself more attractive to underrepresented groups, military veterans and recent college graduates.
Establishing a culture welcoming to underrepresented engineers
While women make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, the semiconductor industry is dominated by men. Estimates from the Global Semiconductor Alliance show that women only represent 10-25% of the semiconductor workforce across all roles and functions.2 Certain racial minority groups, including African-Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanics, are also underrepresented in the industry.3 That presents a massive opportunity for growth.
To hire more women and minorities, semiconductor manufacturers first have to make the effort to reach out to them. Instead of merely hoping they will apply for semiconductor jobs, it is the industry’s responsibility to aggressively recruit them. That means taking steps like attending college engineering events and networking groups targeted to women or minorities.
For example, through NSTAR’s NSOURCESM direct hire services, we have placed more women than ever before due to a recruiting strategy that included reaching out to clubs and LinkedIn technical groups for women. By engaging underrepresented groups in conversation, and letting them know we will train them and put them to work immediately, we’ve had great success expanding our talent pool.
It’s also important for companies to build a culture where women and minorities will feel comfortable and thrive. For example, some women may feel uneasy about joining a workforce consisting primarily of men. These fears can be erased by fostering a culture of respect and a zero-tolerance policy for any discrimination–gender or racial. NSTAR prides itself on creating a welcoming environment for everyone, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation, at all its semiconductor sites.
Mentorship programs with women and minority leaders can also help create a more welcoming culture.
Continuing to reach out to military veterans
Military veterans make great semiconductor technicians because many
of them held roles in the military that helped them develop highly applicable skillsets. For example, military technicians learn important electromechanical and avionic skills that are very relevant to the training they receive at NSTAR.
However, even the veterans who don’t have technical roles pick up skills and habits that translate very well to a semiconductor career. For example, veterans are used to traveling and working compressed or 12-hour shifts; both situations are common in the semiconductor industry. Veterans are also very process-orientated, which is a crucial part of being a technician.
The number of veterans who succeed in the semiconductor industry, including here at NSTAR, supports the argument that the military is a viable resource for talent. It Is important to capitalize on the opportunity by branding the semiconductor industry as one of the best post-military options.
Some successful approaches we’ve taken include:
- Visiting military bases
- Presenting at classes for transitioning veterans to civilian life
- Highlighting veteran success stories on social media and our website
Beginning outreach efforts early
The semiconductor industry offers great benefits for engineers starting their career. For example, NSTAR offers a high base wage, flexible hours and the opportunity to travel to different parts of the world. Unfortunately, once engineers graduate, it is often too late to recruit them into the semiconductor industry because they’ve been courted by other industries.
Outreach needs to begin as early as middle school and high school. Let’s face it: Most kids don’t know what semiconductors are. So how can they aspire to a career in the field? The key is getting students interested in and excited about semiconductors as early as possible. It can be as simple as participating in middle school career days or giving talks to engineering-related clubs in high schools.
But the work doesn’t stop there. Once students enter college, the active outreach needs to continue. Giving guest lectures on entry-level engineering jobs, reaching out to engineering school career counselors and advisors, and attending job fairs are just some of the simple ways semiconductor professionals can educate students about a career in the semiconductor industry.
1. Looming Talent Gap Challenges Semiconductor Industry, Semi-Deloitte, 2018.
2. Women in the Semiconductor Industry, Global Semiconductor Alliance. 2020.
3. Semiconductor Manufacturing Technician Statistics in the U.S., Zippia. April 30, 2021.