Building the Semiconductor Workforce in Latin America

Victor Grimblatt

May 23, 2024 / 3 min read

Many associate semiconductors with North America and APAC, but there’s an emerging region in chip design that deserves attention. In the last two decades, Latin America has grown from its reputation for natural commodities to an up-and-coming semiconductor mecca. From universities developing new curriculums to well-known semiconductor companies opening design centers in the region, Latin America is on track to make its mark on the global industry.

In addition to investing time and resources in R&D and innovation, the region is full of promising talent who are being fostered to accomplish Latin America’s goal of growing a specialized engineering workforce. Through the Synopsys Academic & Research Alliances (SARA), Synopsys is tapping into that talent, providing the next generation with real-world experience working with our EDA tools and IP.

Although solving the global semiconductor talent shortage is a huge feat, the Latin America SARA program has partnered with government entities, academic institutions, and industry organizations like the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) to share semiconductor knowledge across the region.

Since 2008, the Latin America SARA program has spearheaded workforce development activities across several countries, including Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Guatemala. Today, the program works with nearly 40 universities, and there are over 30 universities incorporating Synopsys’ tools for teaching.

semiconductor workforce development latin america

Chip Design and Verification Tunnel Vision

Chip manufacturing is a highly competitive market with steep costs associated — the $54 billion U.S. CHIPS Act is just one example. Since semiconductors are still a relatively new industry in Latin America, going all in on manufacturing isn’t a strategic use of time and resources. The area lacks the budget necessary to invest in a semiconductor plant, so the broader industry, including Synopsys, decided to work with the talent here in a different way and leverage their skills to help Latin America shine.

The region is filling another industry gap by training students and professors in semiconductor design and verification. Universities have already developed curricula in semiconductors with help from Synopsys, and now we’re working with them to concentrate on ASICs. One obstacle is fabrication, as it’s difficult for these universities to access affordable prototype chips.

While Synopsys can easily provide simulations, working with a real chip is ideal. To solve this, we’re following in the footsteps of our European counterparts to develop a “LatinPractice” program. In Europe, solutions like EUROPRACTICE give academia access to the latest technologies for research, innovation, and training. Cloning this program in Latin America will enable all participants to design and fabricate chips cost-effectively.

Educating Through Workshops, Boot Camps, and Academies

Another overarching goal of the SARA program is to educate the masses in semiconductors and Synopsys tools so that they can take that knowledge and use it to transform the industry. This is done through chip design-focused workshops, boot camps, and academies.

Our first Latin America boot camp debuted in Chile back in 2008. At the time, it was a week-long training on integrated circuit (IC) design, where students were given a lab to work on. We’ve now expanded the boot camp to several countries in the region as an introduction to IC design courses, including Chile, Costa Rica, Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, and Peru. We’ve also received great feedback from professors who use what they’ve learned to train additional students and develop more courses.

There’s also our more intensive training option called academies, where participants learn to design a chip over 10 to 12 weeks. Additionally, the SARA program has a strong presence at conferences, where we organize workshops that cover what semiconductors are, the 25 domains that make up the business, and what opportunities lie within the industry.

Given the enthusiasm around these trainings, we hope to have at least one boot camp per month as well as expand our workshops to more countries.

Partnering With the MICITT

SARA’s presence in Costa Rica has positively impacted several universities, including its decade-long alliance with Tecnológico de Costa Rica (TEC) and partnership with the Universidad de Costa Rica among others.

Building on its success in the country, Synopsys joined U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves, and members of the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) on March 21, 2024, for the signing of Costa Rica’s new National Semiconductor Roadmap. This industry initiative aims to advance semiconductor partnerships globally by addressing the need for regional supply chain diversity and resiliency.

To further support this roadmap, Synopsys and the Ministry of Science, Innovation, Technology, and Telecommunications of Costa Rica (MICITT) signed a Letter of Intent to support semiconductor workforce development efforts in Costa Rica through semiconductor training in IC design.

The Future Is Bright

The never-ending advances in technology call for more sophisticated chips, requiring more highly skilled engineers. Luckily, Latin America is full of passionate individuals eager to learn more, and our team is on track to training hundreds of engineers each year on design and verification using Synopsys tools and creating the needed infrastructure to attract more businesses to the region.

With an emphasis on cultivating research, innovation, and talent, SARA seeks to deepen Synopsys’ role as a technology partner of choice in the region and empower the workforce of tomorrow. By fostering collaboration between the industry and academia, we’re helping students and semiconductor professionals feel confident in what they do, build skills that will help them succeed in the workplace, and ensure a bright future for chip design.

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