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China Offers New Courses And Higher Compensation To Address The Scarcity Of Semiconductor Talent

China Offers New Courses And Higher Compensation To Address The Scarcity Of Semiconductor Talent
China is stepping up efforts to cultivate domestic semiconductor talent in an effort to quickly overcome a skills gap that has been exacerbated by American measures to restrict Beijing's access to cutting-edge chip technology.
Over the past five years, enrolment in undergraduate and graduate programs has increased significantly due to new funding for prestigious institutions and a rise in smaller, private schools with a shorter curriculum.
While entry-level pay have risen, some graduates with degrees in other fields are being drawn into the growing industry.
"The prospect of the chip industry is promising, while the employment for software engineers from ordinary schools is not as good as before," said Clara Zhao, who studied materials science at university before securing a job in the chips sector.
According to a white paper co-published by the China Semiconductor Industry Association (CSIA), a trade association, and the China Center for Information Industry Development, a government think tank, China will be short 200,000 industry workers this year.
Since the U.S. wants to shut China off from global supply chains due to concerns that any advanced semiconductors it produces would ultimately be utilized by China's military, closing that gap is becoming even more urgent.
Liu Zhongfan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told local reporters this month on the margins of a parliament meeting that China needs to prioritize developing talent even above finding quick fixes to its supply-chain problems.
Students and experts, however, told Reuters that more modern schools in Taiwan and the US give more practical business exposure than China's nascent semiconductor curricula.
More than 60% of Chinese students majoring in chip engineering graduate without having had an internship in the sector, according to a 2022 survey by the Chinese research company ICWise.
According to new graduates and scholars, Chinese institutions frequently compensate instructors across all disciplines for publishing articles rather than instructing cutting-edge approach that is helpful in a corporate laboratory or chip production facility.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), a leading chip manufacturer, has established research centers at four colleges in Taiwan.
"Taiwan's school-enterprise collaboration is very good. A student might have three years of postgraduate study but will only be in class for a half a year," said Wang Ziyang, a recent graduate who blogs about chip hiring trends on Linkedin-esque social network Maimai, where he has over 90,000 followers.
In China, there have been some moves in this direction. Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC), its largest chip foundry, announced in 2021 the establishment of a School of Integrated Circuits at Shenzhen Technological University.
According to university data, the number of master's students enrolled in 10 leading institutions to study chip engineering nearly quadrupled to 2,893 students between 2018 and 2022.
Fresh graduates told Reuters that the increase in enrollment is also reflected at the undergraduate level, but that addressing the shortage will require a sustained effort.
According to Hu Yunwang, founder of a Shanghai-based employment service for chips, the average yearly salary for an entry-level engineer in the industry has increased since 2018, from around 200,000 yuan ($28,722.43) to 400,000 yuan, underscoring the supply-demand imbalance.
With chip engineering bootcamps that claim to offer a quick track and primarily target graduates who majored in a topic tangentially connected to chip engineering, a number of private institutions have popped up to give a temporary answer.
A former engineer from Arm Ltd started EeeKnow in Shanghai in 2015, offering in-person courses on topics like "Cortex-M3 MCU front-end design and verification in 60 days" for 2,000–4,000 yuan.
Abner Zheng, who earned a materials science degree from a Chengdu university in 2019, said he enrolled in classes at EeeKnow after reading a blog article that advised students in his major to look into careers in semiconductors. He currently works for a Chinese manufacturer of image processing processors.
"If I didn't switch to chip engineering, I would probably have to find a job in a traditional manufacturing industry like cars or machinery," he said.
"I feel like these are sunset industries, so I've decided I should take advantage this big wave that's coming for chips."

Christopher J. Mitchell

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