Ending the semiconductor crisis does not require artificial solutions. The only strategy that can respond to the chip deficit that we have been facing for almost two years now is to increase production enough to meet demand. That’s it. Of course, this recipe has two essential ingredients: the facilities in which the integrated circuits are manufactured and the specialized personnel involved in their production. And both resources are scarce.
We know that more semiconductor factories are needed for many months, but what we did not know is that the companies that produce them are also having difficulties to find technical staff they need to increase production. And, given the context in which we find ourselves, it is very serious. The newspaper The Wall Street Journal has collected several statements in which some executives in the industry of integrated circuits put the spotlight on this problem.
In the United States alone, the semiconductor industry will need to hire between 70,000 and 90,000 additional workers by 2025
«We are mired in a war looking for talent“Said Jim Koonmen, Vice President of ASML, which is the Dutch company owned by Philips that designs and manufactures the photolithographic equipment used by most semiconductor manufacturers. The statements of Ann Kelleher, vice president of Intel, point in this same direction:
«The skills that the semiconductor industry demands to continue growing extend from the professionals involved in the construction of buildings up to researchers that carry out frontier innovations. ‘ In addition, the figures reflected in a report prepared by Eightfold.ai, which is a company dedicated to talent management, endorse the statements of these executives.
And it is that according to their forecasts, only in the United States the semiconductor industry will need to hire between now and 2025 between 70,000 and 90,000 additional workers to enable the growth required by the increasing demand for chips. In Taiwan, which is currently the global powerhouse of integrated circuit manufacturing, the picture is very similar. In fact, the average monthly deficit of specialized workers that this industry already has in this Asian country is approximately 27,700 employees.
Solving this problem does not seem like a piece of cake, especially if we stick to the technical positions that require a high qualification. Training to operate photolithographic equipment in factories or to research and develop new semiconductor technologies, among other areas, is not something that can be done in a heartbeat. Of course, from all this we can get valuable learning: studying physics, electronic engineering or industrial engineering, among other scientific-technical careers, is a safe bet for anyone who wants to develop their professional future in this industry.
More challenges: setting up a new factory takes at least four years
The semiconductor factories in activity have been working for months at the limit of their production capacity. And yet they have not even remotely managed to respond to the demand. In this context there is only one option: build more factories chip and get them up and running as soon as possible. But again, we run into a problem, and it is insurmountable.
“A state-of-the-art chip factory takes no less than four years to be fully operational”
According to Ignacio Mártil de la Plaza, professor of Electronics at the Complutense University of Madrid and a semiconductor expert and photovoltaic solar energy, “a cutting-edge chip factory takes no less than four years to be fully operational. It is evident that, in addition to the time required to construct the building, it is essential to install the very expensive and complex photolithographic equipment involved in the production of integrated circuits.
The most optimistic forecast about the end of the crisis so far has been offered by Pat Gelsinger, Intel’s CEO. This executive predicted at the end of last April that the enormous investment that is required to start up new integrated circuit factories and the time that must be invested in this process will cause the chip deficit lasts for two more years, so in 2023 we should witness the beginning of the end of the crisis. Cross our fingers.
Cover image | TSMC
Via | The Wall Street Journal