TrendForce’s latest analysis on China’s semiconductor sector reveals that the country’s domestic IC manufacturers are affecting the movement of industry talents worldwide as they continue to aggressively headhunt for senior managers and engineers. The competition for human resource is becoming fiercer and will reach a critical point this year as numerous new fabs in China are scheduled to start production in the second half of 2018.
TrendForce points out that foreign governments are increasingly concerned about China’s plan to establish an integrated domestic IC supply chain, and attempts by Chinese companies to obtain technologies, markets and other resources through overseas acquisitions have encountered resistances. For example, several deals proposed by state-backed Tsinghua Unigroup collapsed due to regulatory interference. Also recently, Fujian Grand Chip Investment Fund dropped its offer to Aixtron because of opposition from the U.S. government.
Developing leading-edge manufacturing is important to the core competitive strength of China’s IC industry. With deal making becoming more difficult in the international context, the alternative option for Chinese semiconductor enterprises is to headhunt for veteran managers and engineers who have previously worked for major IC manufacturers. As China’s IC industry rapidly expands, the recruitment process is going to accelerate.
TrendForce also notes that most targets of headhunting are people involved in developing manufacturing process and IC design, and the recruitment drive corresponds with the recent burst of fab construction in China. The number of 12-inch wafer fabs that are under construction in China is currently at 11. TrendForce projects that together these facilities will add more than 900,000 pieces per month to the country’s total 12-inch wafer capacity when they are in full operation.
Furthermore, major domestic semiconductor enterprises including Yangtze River Storage Technology (YRST), Fujian Jin Hua Integrated Circuit (JHICC), Hefei Chang Xin and Tsinghua Unigroup’s Nanjing fab will all be working on the production of DRAM and 3D-NAND Flash. Therefore, the focus of the hiring will be the specialists in the memory field.
Headhunting and training need to proceed in concert to effectively fill talent gaps
Besides headhunting for well-known, leading figures of the industry, Chinese semiconductor companies are also using high salaries to entice senior engineers. Since most the new fabs that are being built are scheduled to start operation in the second half of 2018, the competition for industry talents is going to be very heated this year. TrendForce expects that this situation moreover will help raise the compensations and benefits for domestic industry professionals as a whole.
China still has a lot of room for improvement in terms of training and expanding an indigenous workforce for its IC industry. The successful development of professionals in the field of semiconductor hinges on the interaction between academic/research institutions and semiconductor enterprises. Those who are teaching in universities cannot provide the necessary work experience that enterprises need from their employees. At the same time, not many universities can afford to build and maintain training laboratories that imitate actual production facilities. These institutions will be relying on government funding to get equipment and experts with real experience in production.
TrendForce forecasts that the talent gap in China’s IC industry will widen significantly in the future and face a labor shortage of more than 100,000 high-level technical personnel in 2020. To address this challenge, China has to develop and extend training programs that will get young people into the IC industry. Urgent tasks right now include assembling an outstanding teaching force from talents in the industry and accelerating the establishment of training facilities that provide firsthand work experience.
Recruitment drive will have to encompass the materials and equipment sections of the supply chain so that the entire industry can be strengthened
TrendForce adds that the headhunting efforts need to capture talents residing across the entire IC supply chain, not just those in the manufacturing and design sections. For instance, materials and equipment are the weakest sections of China’s IC industry. If domestic wafer suppliers such as ZINGSEMI could contribute to the import substitution of 12-inch wafers, then domestic manufacturers would be able to better withstand price hikes in the international wafer market.
Also, Chinese semiconductor equipment companies have to find ways to get around the import restrictions based on the Wassenaar Agreement. They not only have to massively increase the availability of their products in the domestic market but also export them to overseas markets. China’s IC industry therefore needs to actively recruit high-caliber talents and train indigenous professionals who will be working in the material and equipment sections of the supply chain. Improving and enlarging the workforce in these two fields will become increasingly vital later on in the course of the industry’s development.