Bridging the talent gap in the semiconductor industry

Lincoln Clark is the leader of the KPMG’s global semiconductor practice and a member of KPMG in the U.S.’s technology, media & telecommunications practice. Opinions are the author’s own. 

The semiconductor industry plays a crucial role in driving technological innovation across a wide range of devices, including smartphones, computers and cars. It fosters economic growth, job opportunities and global competitiveness in manufacturing, research and development, design and related sectors. However, executives are increasingly concerned about the talent shortage facing the industry.

The talent risk

For the third consecutive year, talent risk was cited as the biggest issue facing the semiconductor industry over the next three years in KPMG’s 2024 Global Semiconductor Industry Outlook. And the demand for technical talent is only expected to increase.

In a highly competitive landscape, a shortage of capable talent can hinder a country or company’s ability to effectively compete. Nations with a strong talent pool in the semiconductor sector are more likely to attract investment, foster innovation and maintain a competitive advantage in the global market.

For example, the U.S. currently produces less than 10% of the worldwide chip supply. To address this challenge, the Biden administration has set an ambitious objective for the U.S. to manufacture 20% of the world’s most advanced semiconductor chips by the end of the decade. However, achieving this target hinges on the availability of proficient professionals who can bridge the talent gap.

Closing the skills gap

Ultimately, the talent gap can’t be bridged without addressing the skills gap at the same time, as the industry experiences a surge in demand for specialized skills.

Research indicates that the U.S. is facing a shortage of design workers, with a projected deficit of 23,000 designers by 2030. As technology continues to advance, there is an increasing need for expertise in areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and other domains crucial for chip design and software development.

Moreover, the entry of new players in the semiconductor industry, including tech giants and tech adjacent industries like automotive, has intensified the competition for talent. These companies are competing for the same specialized professionals as traditional chip manufacturers, resulting in a scarcity of available skilled workers. 

To address the mounting talent pressures, our report highlights the top three actions semiconductor companies have taken thus far to combat this challenge. These actions include forming partnerships with universities to cultivate a pipeline of skilled graduates capable of meeting industry demands, reinforcing the employee value proposition and offering remote or hybrid work positions.

Prioritizing the development and acquisition of talent is crucial for the continued growth and competitiveness of the semiconductor industry.

By investing in education, training and targeted initiatives, we can address the skills gap and position ourselves to capitalize on the opportunities presented by federal funding. This will enable us to meet the demands of an ever-evolving technological landscape and maintain our leadership in the global semiconductor market.