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The skills gap in the semiconductor industry is not a new problem; it’s an ageing one. Skills shortages in the sector tend to be cyclical to an extent, affected mostly by the hiring investments (or lack thereof) of the biggest players within semiconductors. However, new challenges have created a situation which is steadily worsening; one which will severely limit growth if new talent cannot be found.

So what exactly is causing the problem?

Shortage of skilled professionals

In the US, it is predicted that American universities will produce only 29 per cent of the required number of graduates required by the sector over the next few years, while here in the UK we face a shortfall of 20,000 domestic engineering graduates annually. There just isn’t enough talent being fed into the pipeline. This is further compounded by the lack of deep technical knowledge and practical experience of many graduates, with few attractive internships offered.

Lack of female talent

According to research from SEMI Europe, women represent just 25.3 per cent of board members, 7.1 per cent of board chairs and 5.5 per cent of CEOs in the semiconductor industry. This underrepresentation begins at school, with fewer women taking core STEM subjects at GCSE, A-Level and university level. Those that do pursue STEM careers often leave the industry before retirement, with fewer than in one in five going back to work full-time after having a baby.

New innovations and technologies

Technology is developing faster than ever before and innovation and reinvention is constant. There is a continuous need for new skills and enough engineers cannot learn at the rate the sector requires. The use of automation and artificial intelligence also means that organisations must either retrain workers or replace them with new talent.

Increasing competition for skills

Those with the knowledge to work within semiconductors are also attractive candidates to the likes of tech giants such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook. These businesses are prolific; they all have strong employer brands and naturally appeal to talented candidates. In comparison, the semiconductor industry is less well-known and can seem old-fashioned and not so glamorous.

We also have to consider the convergence of tech and all other industries. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has taken hold and all sectors are experiencing some form of digital disruption. Candidates who would previously have flocked towards semiconductors have more options than ever before.

All of this means that finding new talent is a huge challenge for semiconductor businesses – but with every problem comes a solution. So, what can businesses do to compete for candidates and help bridge the talent gap?

Step-up recruiting efforts at schools and universities

It’s unlikely that high school curriculums will cover semiconductors, so busineses in the sector should work with STEM students to introduce them to the industry, opening doors and exposing pupils to your organisation through site visits and mentoring schemes. Make the most of partnerships and initiate research and development efforts with universities, allowing students to work on real projects and connecting them with your business at an early stage. If graduates don’t have enough practical experiences then organisations must help by providing universities with process tools and equipments. You should also work closely with governing bodies such as the ministry of economics and ministry of education to push for new learning content.

Consider your employer brand

Competition for talent has never been stronger, and the reasons candidates choose to work for a business is changing. 94 per cent of jobseekers consider the employer brand when thinking about applying for a role, so it’s important that yours stands out in a crowd. 48 per cent of candidates also use social media as part of their job search, so make sure that yours reflects your brand and is attractive to your target demographic.

You should also promote mentorship programs and sponsorships that encourage women to bring their talents and innovation to the industry. This improves the reputation of the sector and your business and strengthens your employer brand.

Establish “future” workplaces now

The digital revolution has changed the workplace and candidates’ expectation of work. Organisations must create modern environments that allow their employees to be passionate, innovative and flexible at work. Consider implementing creativity rooms, flexible working and working from home policies.

Work-life balance is more important than ever, yet just one third of UK employees say they are happy with their current work-life balance. You should help to redress this by offering gym access or installing yoga studios and allowing people to work the hours that best-fit with their personal lives, wherever possible. This can also help attract and retain female talent, by making it easier for them to work and progress within the industry, while at the same time benefitting parents already in the industry.

Create career development opportunities

Starting with the establishment of more graduate training programmes, businesses should consider how they will attract and retain lifelong talent. Create clear career paths that offer young professionals a guideline and framework for their career, nurturing their ambitions and demonstrating the different opportunities available in the world of semiconductors.

Rethink your hiring process

The best candidates are likely to be talking to several businesses at once when considering their next career move, so it’s vital that you keep them engaged throughout the recruitment process. Partner with specialist recruiters who can help you to communicate clearly and quickly so that you don’t lose your prospective hire to your competitor.

You should also make sure that you’re selling your vacancy, business and industry to the candidate – you’ll expect them to sell themselves, so it’s only fair to offer a vice versa. There’s never been more competition for talent, so it’s essential that you showcase your every asset.

We’ve been supplying the semiconductor industry with expert talent since 1997. For a confidentional chat on how your organisation can attract top candidates, get in touch with us today.

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