Strengthening the Semiconductor Talent Pipeline Through Workforce Development Programs

Patrick Haspel

Jan 04, 2024 / 4 min read

What will it take to nurture the next generation of engineers?

This is one of the big challenges for the semiconductor industry, as a looming talent shortage converges with increasing demands for more complex chips. According to a study by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) and Oxford Economics, there’s a risk that roughly 67,000 jobs for technicians, computer scientists, and engineers will go unfilled by 2030 in the U.S. alone. Meanwhile, the nation’s CHIPS and Science Act invests $52 billion in the country’s industry over five years, creating new opportunities while also galvanizing workforce development initiatives with universities and businesses.

As chip manufacturing fabs are built in the U.S., skilled technicians will be needed to bring them online and to make them operational and profitable. And as AI and machine learning become more ubiquitous, engineering expertise will be needed to design the chips and write the code that make these technologies useful.

Indeed, it will take collaboration across multiple sectors—including government, academia, and the industry (as well as across the electronics value chain)—to bring new engineering talent on board. Mentoring, hands-on lab experience, internships, and college degree programs all play pivotal roles. Read on for a deeper look at what’s needed to strengthen the semiconductor talent pipeline.  

semiconductor workforce development program

Broadening Awareness of Semiconductor Industry Careers

The SEMI Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the SEMI industry association that cultivates growth, drives connections, and provides advocacy, is front and center when it comes to workforce development. Its programs span from grade school awareness initiatives to efforts to reskill and upskill incumbent workers. Part of the challenge, according to Shari Liss, the foundation’s executive director, is the need to shift perceptions of the industry and bring greater awareness of the career opportunities available. This is, after all, a $500+ billion global industry that accounts for 1.25 million jobs in the U.S. alone.

“Students, even in Silicon Valley, know their devices, software, social media, but semiconductors are a more invisible component of STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] work,” Liss said. “If I find students who know about the industry, there’s a very limited understanding of what types of jobs the industry provides.”

Liss and her team have been working on ways to reshape the narrative around the chip industry to highlight how exciting it is to be a part of a workforce that is creating new ways for us to connect, collaborate, communicate, and much more. She also notes that there’s opportunity to better promote cultures of inclusion and diversity, noting: “Students really want to see themselves in a place where they belong.”

One of the SEMI Foundation’s most ambitious efforts to date is its partnership with the American Semiconductor Academy (ASA) to build a comprehensive workforce development program that strengthens workforce education and training programs across the nation. The organizations aim to connect 200 universities and community colleges to more than 1,500 SEMI member companies (including Synopsys) with operations in the U.S. These entities can collaborate to ensure that students are learning what they need to be productive contributors to the industry, help develop a diverse talent pipeline, and foster R&D partnerships to enhance technology transfer. 

Why Industry/Academia Collaborations Are Vital

Businesses that collaborate closely with academia can play an important part in nurturing engineering talent. Some companies provide curricula, lab materials along with software and hardware resources for students to gain theoretical and hands-on knowledge that can give them a head start in the work world. Internships, mentoring, involvement in workforce development activities with industry trade associations, and investments in STEM education are other avenues to spark interest in electronics industry careers.

Through the years, Synopsys has created pathways to support future engineers, many of these efforts through the Synopsys Academic & Research Alliances (SARA) program. The SARA program sponsors training labs, degree and other academic programs, boot camps, as well as professor training (“train the trainer” programs). Its University Software Program provides academic and research institutions with access to electronic design automation (EDA) tools and technology, technical support, and curriculum. Another key component is workforce enablement through training and classroom education, which includes materials and labs.

Synopsys has also created “flex” teams of application engineers, providing rigorous training (and testing) and then hiring from qualified pools of recently trained college grads. In Vietnam, for instance, the company works closely with universities, providing 12-week training programs with educational materials from the SARA program. New hires go on to bolster apps engineering teams throughout Asia, supporting customers who use Synopsys EDA solutions. In addition, Synopsys customers have extended opportunities to these trained students. 

Inspiring Future Generations of Technologists

Education is an enabling force in the world that expands the talent pipeline and creates paths to opportunity. The Synopsys for Good social impact program generates a positive impact in the community, helps solve social challenges around the world, and creates access to opportunity. The Synopsys Foundation’s education pillar aims to prepare students for the future of work and innovation by supporting organizations focused on K-12 (primary and secondary) STEM programs to close the equity and achievement gap and increase diversity in STEM education and career pathways. It provides students with hands-on experiences to build problem-solving, design thinking, and digital skills while also creating STEM curriculum and content oriented toward the future. Examples include supporting students to develop Apps for Good, distributing science kits and materials to teachers, developing math bees and other STEM competition, and investing in AI curriculum and an IC design summer camp for high school students.


From every smart home appliance to supercomputer, the semiconductor industry continues to demonstrate its criticality to an array of sectors. Every year, tiny yet complex electronic components are transforming how we work, live, and play. However, the continued innovation that is fueled by increasingly sophisticated chips requires a highly skilled workforce that is increasingly in short supply. The CHIPS Act in the U.S., along with similar measures in other countries, is sparking investments to nurture the next generation of engineers. Workforce development initiatives such as industry/academia collaborations, internships, mentoring, and hands-on educational experiences will go far in delivering a robust and diverse talent pipeline. 

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