JUST IN: U.S. Semiconductor Industry Could Face Tech Worker Crisis by 2030
The United States is projected to face a shortage of 67,100 technicians, computer scientists and engineers throughout the semiconductor industry and 1.4 million across the nation's economy by 2030, according to a new study released July 25.
Semiconductors are an essential component for electronic devices, which are critical to not only defense technologies, but countless other applications across the U.S. economy. From communications to security, they enable critical technologies that help encourage economic growth and improve national defense, stated the report, “Chipping Away: Assessing and Addressing the Labor Market Gap Facing the U.S. Semiconductor Industry,” released by the Semiconductor Industry Association and Oxford Economics.
The report predicted that the semiconductor industry will need a total of 238,000 technicians, computer scientists and engineers by 2030. Without action to address the talent gap, the United States might fail to achieve full potential of the capacity growth, supply chain resiliency and technology innovation leadership, the report stated.
“Our analysis showcases the critical high-skilled roles across the semiconductor sector and the likely skill shortages the industry will face, if proactive talent development measures are not taken,” said Dan Martin, senior economist and lead researcher at Oxford Economics, an economic advisory firm. “Moving forward, tens of thousands of new post-secondary-trained workers will need to fill the roles created as the industry increases their productive capacity in the U.S.,” he said in an SIA statement.
In addition, the technical talent gap challenge facing the semiconductor industry also affects the entire U.S. economy. Cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, next-generation communication and other technology industries of strategic importance are facing a similar gap. Unless the talent pipeline expands, 1.4 million jobs risk not being filled throughout the U.S. economy, the report said.
The report highlighted three key policy recommendations to help close the talent gap and strengthen the U.S. technical workforce. With a projected gap of 26,400 technicians by 2030, it recommended strengthened support for regional partnerships and programs that would help grow the talent pipeline for skilled technical roles in semiconductor manufacturing and other advanced manufacturing sectors.
For 80 percent of technicians, credentials can take between six to 24 months to acquire, which is leading semiconductor companies to develop and expand programs that will recruit and teach skills to new workers, the report stated.
“Expanding certification boot camps, apprenticeships and other training programs at community and technical colleges located near new and expanding semiconductor fabs would, therefore, be an effective means to help close the workforce gap for technicians. Curricula and education solutions tailored to the semiconductor industry will ensure students are prepared for future employment,” the report stated.
With postsecondary education programs typically taking anywhere between four to 10 years to complete, the report recommends a broader effort to expand the science, technology, engineering and mathematics pipeline for engineers and computer scientists necessary for the semiconductor industry and U.S. economy.
“Closing these gaps requires a comprehensive STEM strategy, starting with boosting student interest in STEM opportunities at the K–12 level,” the report stated. “At the college level, these students should be encouraged to work in a STEM profession, as well as to be made aware of job opportunities in the semiconductor industry.”
The third recommendation is to retain and attract more international advanced degree students within the U.S. economy, since the workforce gap cannot be realistically addressed solely with citizen graduates by 2030.
“Boosting the supply of engineering and [computer science] graduates among U.S. citizens, especially at the master’s and PhD level where most graduates are foreign nationals, is essential for both economic and national security goals,” the report stated. “In the short to medium run, however, given the long timescale needed to train this talent, it will be essential to retain more foreign graduates from U.S. institutions.”
To guarantee the supply of the technologies of the future and improve national security, it is vital to have a predictable and sustainable number of technicians, engineers and computer scientists across all industries, according to the report.