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Connecting the Microelectronics Industry with Exceptional Talent – Insights From Swansea University

02nd May 2024

Connecting the Microelectronics Industry with Exceptional Talent – Insights From Swansea University

To help meet growing chip demand, more large chip manufacturers are building new fabs, especially in Europe and the United States, even as the semiconductor industry continues to struggle to attract and retain talent.

SEMI spoke with Prof. Owen J. Guy, Head of Chemistry and Education Lead at the Centre for Integrative Semiconductor Materials (CISM) at Swansea University, about the challenge of onboarding talent within the microelectronics industry and the importance of the SEMI Talent Forum ahead of the May 1 event at the Great Hall on Swansea University Bay Campus in Swansea, UK.

Prof. Guy shared his views about the semiconductor industry and career opportunities within the South Wales Cluster. Registration for the SEMI Talent Forum 2024 is open.

SEMI: What excites students the most about the semiconductor industry?

Guy: From my experience researching the latest semiconductor materials and devices and teaching students about semiconductors, I have found that students greatly appreciate the hands-on aspects of microelectronics. An environment like CISM, one of the UK’s leading semiconductor fabs, is an ideal place to learn about semiconductors and fabricate novel devices. Another aspect that inspires students is how semiconductor devices are integral to everything from smartphones to electric vehicles, as well as providing the hardware to power cloud computing and AI.

SEMI: The semiconductor industry is currently searching for more than 100,000 new employees in Europe alone but is falling short. What is the industry’s biggest challenge in recruiting new talent?

Guy: One of the biggest issues is awareness. While many people might have heard of semiconductors, few realize that there is a significant semiconductor industry in South Wales. In fact, Wales contributes technology to every smartphone.

People often underestimate how multidisciplinary the semiconductor industry is. There are opportunities in semiconductors in the UK and globally for individuals from various backgrounds – particularly physicists, chemists, and engineers, but also for computer scientists, mathematicians, business students, marketers, and finance professionals.

SEMI: What can the industry and educational centers do to overcome this challenge?

Guy: The challenge lies in educating and inspiring people from a young age, showing them how semiconductor devices are made and highlighting their applications. One of the sectors that successfully captivates people is healthcare, where semiconductors serve as a key enabling technology. Additionally, fostering partnerships between educational institutions and industry players is essential.

Through these collaborations, we can offer top-notch training via practical courses held in facilities such as CISM, ensuring that students receive hands-on experience and exposure to real-world applications. Establishing and maintaining these links between educational centers and the industry not only enhances the skill set of aspiring professionals but also facilitates a seamless transition for talent into the semiconductor industry, ultimately addressing the challenge of attracting and retaining skilled individuals in the field.

 

Swansea University’s Great Hall, venue of SEMI Talent Forum 2024

 

SEMI: Why is collaboration between the industry and academia important?

Guy: Industry collaboration is vital as it ensures that our research remains highly relevant to the latest technologies and future trends. For instance, at CISM my colleague Professor Mike Jennings is closely collaborating with Vishay Semiconductor on the development of the latest power device technologies. Another example is the partnership with KLA, where employees have the opportunity to pursue Ph.Ds. with Swansea University, leading to the development of cutting-edge technologies with real commercial applications.

That's one of the reasons why the SEMI Talent Forum is held at Swansea – due to our strong links with the semiconductor industry.

SEMI: In what ways does the SEMI Talent Forum contribute to bridging the gap between academia and industry

Guy: The SEMI Talent Forum plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between academia and industry by providing students with direct engagement opportunities. Participants not only gain insights into the latest technological advancements at some of the world's leading semiconductor companies but also have the chance to interact with senior industry leaders in person during the event.

This year, our attendees include students ranging from 16 to 18 years of age to Masters and Ph.D. students, reflecting our commitment to offering opportunities at various levels. Additionally, we have invited students from diverse subject backgrounds, demonstrating the vast selection of opportunities available within the industry.

 

Participants of SEMI Talent Forum in 2019

 

SEMI: What advice would you give to students who are considering attending the SEMI Talent Forum, and how can they make the most out of this opportunity to network with industry experts?

Guy: Seize the opportunity. Our industry partners at Swansea are actively seeking talent and are eager to engage with you, so don’t hesitate to initiate a conversation with them. Conduct some background research on the companies beforehand, allowing you to ask more relevant questions. Approach the discussions with enthusiasm and remain open to learning about semiconductors!

About Prof. Owen J. Guy

Prof. Owen J. Guy, Head of Chemistry and Education Lead at the Centre for Integrative Semiconductor Materials (CISM) at Swansea University. His expertise covers semiconductor materials with notable work on biosensors and healthcare technologies such as microneedle MEMS devices. With over 20 years in cleanroom device fabrication, he pioneered epitaxial graphene biosensors for cancer biomarker detection. Guy has mentored over 30 Ph.D. and Master students and collaborates extensively with the industry.

Maria Daniela Perez is Manager Communications at SEMI Europe.


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