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In an era where digital technology serves as the heart of many sectors, semiconductors have become indispensable drivers of progress and innovation. Chips surround our lives playing a crucial role in many aspects of daily functioning, from smartphones and electronic devices to critical infrastructure. Their integral presence influences not only technological development, but also makes our lives increasingly dependent on these innovative solutions. This phenomenon is particularly noticeable when analysing forecasts for the growth of this sector. According to McKinsey, by 2030, the semiconductor market value will double, reaching an impressive $1 trillion, which aligns with the rapidly growing demand for advanced integrated circuits.

However, the development of this dynamic industrial sector is not without its challenges, with one of the most pressing issues being the shortage of qualified workforce. According to Deloitte forecasts, by 2030, the demand for new, highly skilled workers is expected to reach one million. Moore’s Law, which assumes the doubling of integrated circuit power approximately every two years, poses constant challenges related to human resources necessary to maintain this pace of development.

As McKinsey reports, about one-fifth of employees in the European Union semiconductor industry are over 55 years old, including engineering and production workers. Ensuring an adequate number of highly skilled workers has become a priority, especially in the context of semiconductor shortages resulting from supply chain disruptions that affected the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Factory closures in Asia had a significant impact on the global market. Technology-related sectors, such as the automotive industry, were forced to temporarily halt production, underscoring the importance not only of semiconductors, but also of the people who create these technologies.

Following experiences with the pandemic, attention is also drawn to other threats, such as war in Ukraine. The unstable political situation in some regions is prompting companies to diversify into other markets, strengthening Europe’s position. As a response to these challenges, the semiconductor industry has begun to intensify efforts to open new manufacturing locations. However, this generates another challenge – providing an adequate supply of qualified workforce. Locating new factories requires people with knowledge and skills in designing, manufacturing and testing semiconductors.

 

Global workforce challenges

Using Germany as an example, we can observe that the shortage of workers is growing larger, and despite numerous initiatives, the problem is deepening year by year. The number of vacancies is increasing annually, reaching over 850,000 in 2022. Studies indicate that the shortage of workers in the productive age group could reach 5 million by 2030. To fill the gap related to the shortage of qualified personnel entire teams are being hired from Eastern Europe, India or China. It is estimated that about 15% of the German workforce is foreign-born, according to the OECD. However, these actions are not sufficient, because more workers retire each year than new workers are employed. Germany is confronted with a pressing challenge of skills shortage and demographic decline. Despite investments that are expected to generate between 5,000 and 8,000 new jobs in the semiconductor branch, the country is projected to experience a huge decrease in working-age individuals over the next decade.

A similar situation can be observed in the United States, where many workers lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and although businesses have recovered post-pandemic, employees have not returned to their industries. Due to the labour shortage, many workers had to take on additional tasks, leading to burnout and consequently resigning from their jobs. McKinsey has forecasted a deficit of approximately 300,000 engineers and 90,000 skilled technicians in the United States by 2030. The current employee market in the USA should force employers to adjust working conditions to attract new talent. This will not fully close the gap, leading companies to recruit less skilled workers, which in turn results in longer hours or lower quality work.

The situation is no different in Taiwan – many factors contribute to the shortage of personnel in the semiconductor industry. However, government officials prioritize this issue, aware of the consequences of neglect. To support the development of the industry, a series of strategies have been implemented with the “Accelerating Future Technology Research and Talent Planning” strategy established in 2021 playing a significant role in developing the talent pool. The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) has earmarked $1.1 billion for the “2025 Top-Down Semiconductor Plan”. This initiative aims to implement various programs to foster semiconductor talent starting from 2021. Of course, government programs are a significant incentive for young people, but there is much more to be done in this area to achieve visible and satisfying results.

 

The potential of the Pomeranian Voivodeship in fostering talent. Employee relocation as a strategy for acquiring experienced workforce

Relying on employees currently working in the semiconductor or related sectors has its advantages. These are resources of educated personnel, significantly reducing the time, effort and finances associated with educating an employee from scratch. However, it often involves relocating a new candidate. As experts from Randstad, an international employment agency based in Gdańsk, point out, incentives for relocation often include the possibility of career advancement and engagement in development and long-term projects with which they can identify. High earnings are also important, but they must be accompanied by interesting professional challenges and job stability. Of course, in addition to professional matters, people pay attention to environmental issues, such as air quality and proximity to nature. Equally important are infrastructure, well-organized communication, and attractions available on-site. Pomerania fits well into these requirements, both environmental and infrastructure-related, where the quality of life is high. According to a 2022 study by Antal, Tricity agglomeration (Gdańsk-Sopot-Gdynia) ranks second among the most attractive cities for relocation in Poland. The quality of life is also evidenced by the level of satisfaction of the residents of the largest city in the region – Gdańsk, which ranked 4th among European cities in a report commissioned by the European Commission. The results of these studies also confirm the observations of Randstad’s recruitment experts, who also notice a trend where employees are more willing to accept relocation offers to the Pomeranian Voivodeship.

Invest in Pomerania has established a separate unit, Talent Attraction Team, led by Monika Stokfisz, aimed at attracting and retaining qualified individuals. Through the initiatives of this team, the region becomes more competitive, innovative, and attractive for residents, including newcomers, as well as entrepreneurs and investors. Their activities include promoting the unique culture, natural values, such as charming seaside beaches and extensive forest complexes, as well as the rich architecture and dynamic cultural scene of the region. Emphasizing these elements these elements contributes to attracting individuals seeking high quality of life. As Monika emphasizes, it is important for a newcomer to quickly integrate into the local community, become familiar with the region, which enables building strong ties with the environment and positively affects their perception, thereby increasing the likelihood of a long-term stay in a new place. To this end, meetings for migrant communities are regularly organized, which not only provide an opportunity to establish new contacts, but also to acquire and expand knowledge during lectures led by practitioners from various fields.

 

University and business partnerships in shaping young talents in Pomeranian Voivodeship

However, it would be dangerous to leave the situation in the semiconductor sector idle and rely solely on the existing workforce. Faced with the growing demand for skilled personnel, all interested parties should take active steps to attract attention and intrigue people with the potential for employment in this dynamic industry. Recognizing the pressing issue of the shortage of educated workforce, Invest in Pomerania is actively involved in initiatives aimed at educating new talent in technical fields, with a focus on the semiconductor sector. The Talent Attraction team focuses on attracting and retaining talented individuals and collaborates with local universities, bridging the gap between academia and business representatives. This issue should be viewed long-term, as it takes many years to fill the talent gap. As Monika Stokfisz says, the wide range of activities undertaken by her team aims to create and maintain long-term cooperation with universities and companies, including managing branded programs programmes and internships.

– As a result of collaboration between universities and companies, we maintain a balance between theoretical knowledge and practical skills, which are conveyed by experienced company representatives. This cooperation becomes a key element in the process of educating the future workforce. Thanks to this, young people are not only prepared to enter the job market, but also aware of the current needs and challenges of the industry. This partnership approach fits into the strategy of creating conscious, market-oriented professionals ready to meet the requirements of the growing semiconductor industry – says Monika Stokfisz, Talent Attraction Team Leader.

 

The growing interest of women in STEM and careers in scientific-technological sectors

The wealth of STEM courses at Pomeranian universities means that around 17.000 people are currently studying in the area related to semiconductors. Universities are heavily involved in attracting young women, to STEM courses, creating initiatives such as FarU Women’s Club or Girls as engineers and Girls go science!, which are the largest initiatives of this kind in Central and Eastern Europe. Thanks to these initiatives, we can see that women’s interest in STEM subjects is increasing and the proportion of women to men in STEM courses is higher than the average in the EU.

As Randstad experts note, more and more women are seeking jobs in science, technology and engineering-related industries. Society’s awareness of equality in terms of professional competence in these fields is growing, further encouraging women’s development.

 

Seeking new talents in untapped labour markets

Developing the talent pool becomes an indispensable element in ensuring success in the race for innovation and technological progress, which is a common goal of semiconductor industry. Our task should be to ignite passion for technical fields, which is a key element of the sector’s future success. Young people, exposed to inspiring initiatives, have the opportunity to discover the wealth of possibilities associated with semiconductors. Educational programs are the foundation supporting the development of talents and the future of the semiconductor industry. Joint actions of schools and businesses are crucial in shaping a strong and competent human resources base, necessary to maintain the pace in this innovative field.

Considering the challenge of the shortage of qualified workforce in the semiconductor industry Pomerania seems to be an ideal solution to this situation. Randstad experts, with a deep understanding of the local labour market, see a huge opportunity for the development of the semiconductor industry in the region. The Pomeranian economic market is currently a development environment for many companies from related sectors, such as e-mobility or the electronics industry. However, there is still plenty of room for new enterprises and for obtaining a sufficient number of qualified employees from local universities or individuals willing to relocate to the region.

Anna Żukowska

Author Anna Żukowska

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