In light of COVID-19, the microelectronics industry is undergoing major changes and adapting to a great degree its work practices. This transition has given rise to new skills priorities. In such a challenging time, it is clear that reskilling and upskilling are of vital importance to follow the constantly changing demands of the market and adjust to the new work realities.
Against this backdrop, public initiatives are uniquely placed to ensure that workforce development remains high on the agenda of the industry. As such, SEMI welcomed the newly announced Pact for Skills, an EU initiative that aims to boost reskilling and upskilling in tech sectors that are growing and experiencing a major skills change. Pact for Skills was announced last March by the European Commission’s Communication A New Industrial Strategy for Europe and is expected to be launched this year. To position the needs of the microelectronics sector in this new initiative, SEMI drafted a white paper addressed to policymakers in the European Commission, the European Parliament and EU Member States, highlighting the sector’s new skills priorities post-COVID-19.
New needs, new priorities
The pandemic is expected to shift the semiconductor market to a great extent. According to McKinsey & Company, demand for some electronic components and systems, including those used in mobile phones, consumer electronics and automotive applications, is expected to drop in 2020. On the other hand, because of the rise of remote work and online education, demand for electronic components and systems that enable networks could grow by one to seven percent, due to an expected 40 percent increase in video streaming and conferencing. Also, semiconductors that enable certain medical-device categories, such as ventilators, X-ray machines and diagnostic tools, are already experiencing an increase in demand.
In addition to the changes in demand, another factor impacting the industry are the new work practices introduced in companies throughout COVID-19. SEMI has conducted thorough research on the companies’ responses to the virus and held various sessions with members to discuss best practices. Upon consulting members of its Workforce Development and Diversity Council and METIS project partners, SEMI found that companies have already defined priorities to keep up with the transforming landscape.
First, it is clear that remote work constitutes an important change for a big part of the semiconductor workforce. Although in many large companies, flexible work conditions had already been put in place and many employees have had to face unprecedented changes in their work routine, working away from their team for the first time and for an extended period of time. To adjust to the new conditions, businesses immediately put in place various initiatives to prepare their workforce, in the form of communications packages and training on best practices for remote work, targeting in particular engineers who are not used to working from home.
Due to the nature of the microelectronics industry, it is imperative that a part of the workforce remains on-site. However, COVID-19 restricted travel of staff members and limited the number of employees that can stay on-site to protect the health of the workforce. This has exacerbated the need for flexibility and interdisciplinarity in workforce profiles, as on-site employees find themselves in the position to tackle issues not directly linked to their expertise.
Moreover, the nature of training needs to be revisited, as on-the-job training, although indispensable for engineers and technicians in the semiconductor industry, poses challenges to the social distancing rules imposed due to COVID-19. Since the outbreak, most live training programmes have been postponed or re-organised with fewer participants at a time. The development of traditional online content is crucial, but it can replace only part of the training. For the development of pioneering training materials, collaboration between industry and education is vital. For example, incorporating innovative tools such as virtual and augmented reality could represent a solution for new-age training, respecting COVID-19 restrictions.
Finally, the common denominator for the industry in the transition from COVID-19 is the safety of the workforce, and hence the well-being of the society as a whole. In that regard, the drafting of roadmaps that spell out common safety rules for on-the-job training, as well as the exchange of best practices, would play an important role. For this, a sector-wide approach is necessary, guiding all enterprises and providing standards for the phases of the transition to normalcy.
Join METIS focus groups and let’s design the future of skills together!
In this challenging time, targeted measures are needed to help the industry and workforce get back on their feet. Rethinking of the reskilling and upskilling priorities is a critical step in these efforts. To achieve sustainable results, however, sector-wide collaboration and strong academia-industry links should be developed. METIS (MicroElectronics Training, Industry and Skills), a SEMI-coordinated project co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme, is inviting SEMI members to define the future of skills, investigate the consequences of the crisis on skills priorities and propose an action plan.
To that end, the consortium of 20 industry and education partners has set up various focus groups with key stakeholders of the industry to identify skill needs and gaps. The focus groups target all facets of the microelectronics value chain and address key trends in skill development such as AI and cybersecurity. The outcomes of the focus groups will feed into the Microelectronics Skills Strategy, a comprehensive report that will define jobs of the future and highlight skills gaps in the sector. Based on the report, the curriculum of many educational institutes will be updated in the coming months.
All SEMI members are cordially invited to participate in one or more focus groups to:
- Connect with major education and training organisations
- Highlight best practices from their organization
- Contribute to influential reports that will shape policy making
- Impact the educational provision by providing industry insights
See the themes of the focus groups and register here.
For more details, contact Stefania Gavra at email@example.com.
Stefania Gavra is Public Affairs Manager at SEMI.