Europe is facing an acute shortage of skilled microelectronics workers that undermines the growth potential of not only the electronics industry but the European economy as a whole. Nearly 1.1 million job advertisements for electro-engineering workers were placed in the EU between mid-2018 and the end of 2019 (CEDEFOP, 2020). The shortfall looms large as a skilled and diverse workforce that can continuously innovate is the oxygen of microelectronics.
In light of the critical importance of microelectronics to Europe’s ability to fulfill its growth potential, SEMI Europe participated in the high-level roundtable hosted by Commissioner Nicolas Schmit and Commissioner Thierry Breton on October 5. The discussion’s key takeaway: The skills challenge facing the microelectronics industry is too complex for one organization to tackle, and reskilling and upskilling its workforce should be a common priority for Europe. Only with a diverse, substantial and skilled microelectronics workforce can Europe achieve its R&D, design and manufacturing ambitions while ensuring its sovereignty in the digital age. The roundtable highlighted the EU Pact for Skills as a key means to narrow the industry’s skills gap.
An ever-growing part of our lives, microelectronics, with their ability to run billions of computations per second and store vast quantities of data, are the brains of modern technology. The digital sovereignty of nations around the world today relies on advanced microprocessors to collect, transfer, analyze and store immense amounts of data used in key end-user sectors such as mobility, telecommunications, energy, security and healthcare. Information and communication technologies (ICT) enabled by microelectronics are helping much of the world’s population to work and study from home and remain safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Smarter2030 Report, further deployment of ICT, including electronic components in critical sectors such as transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, construction and energy, could eliminate the equivalent of 12.1 billion tons of CO2 per year globally. These are some of the reasons why nations worldwide are making large-scale investments to advance a homegrown microelectronics R&D, design and manufacturing base. It is no surprise, then, that semiconductors are now at the center of the so-called global techno-trade wars.
Clearly, Europe urgently needs to mobilize and pool resources to develop effective lifelong learning programs for all workers and continue investing in microelectronics innovation. We need to instill the passion for creating technology among current and future workforce, in particular women and people with challenged backgrounds, and build a highly diverse talent pool. Working together, we can better demonstrate how computing technologies, including quantum, high-performance and edge AI, provide solutions to grand societal challenges and attract talented people to the fascinating world of electronic components and systems.
Against this backdrop, the microelectronics industry finds the Pact for Skills very timely and crucial to advancing the talent pool underpinning Europe’s deep digital ecosystem. The Pact will play an instrumental role in improving the scope and the quality of training partnerships at regional, national and European levels, sharing best practices and helping the microelectronics industry and workforce adapt to the effects of COVID-19.
The microelectronics industry is committed to building on the momentum created by the METIS Erasmus+ collaborative project and to mobilizing our ecosystem and education partners for a successful Pact for Skills in Microelectronics starting this year.
The High-Level Roundtable: Skills for Microelectronics was hosted by Commissioner Thierry Breton and Commissioner Nicolas Schmit. Participants included Paul Boudre, CEO, SOITEC; Lars Reger, CEO Germany and CTO, NXP; Frits van Hout, Executive Vice-President and Chief Strategy Officer, ASML; Françoise Chombar, CEO, Melexis; Emmanuel Sabonnadiere, CEO, CEA-Leti; Luc Van den hove, President and CEO, imec; Sabine Nietzsche, Board member, Silicon Saxony and Vice President, GlobalFoundries; Laith Altimime, President, SEMI Europe (coordinator of METIS); Yolande Berbers, President, European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI); James Calleja, President, European Forum for Technical Vocational Education and Training (EFVET); Ludovic Voet, Confederal Secretary, European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).
Emir Demircan is director of Advocacy and Public Policy at SEMI Europe. To learn more about SEMI Europe advocacy, contact Emir at email@example.com.