Industry watch: A new model of talent-driven industrial development

Colley Hwang, DIGITIMES, Taipei 0

Former president of Industrial Technology Research Institute Chin-Tay Shih pointed out in a recent forum organized by Li Kwoh-ting Foundation that top US companies often use Research Lab organizations to interact with young students. Intel offered 700 or 800 internships to students every summer, and he was entitled to internship while studying in California. Since the link between enterprises and schools is relatively weak in Taiwan, there may be gaps between one's school education and career. The colleges of semiconductor research under construction in Taiwan is trying to seek solution to close the gap.

But we need to have an idea of what traits the next generation of the semiconductor industry must display. TSMC chairman Mark Liu has high expectations for the Semiconductor College. Liu said that Taiwan's doctoral students do not have ideas of how to undertake research and development, while overseas institutions usually adopt an open teaching approach allowing students to think and decide their own research topics. On the contrary, Taiwan's society apparently lives up to to the top-down model to complete a mission or job. Professors deserve different reward packages from those of public servants. The mission of semiconductor colleges is to cultivate people with capability to do research and develop independent thinking and personality. This suggests that the current academic spirit and contexts must be reviewed, and the rigidity in college management must be eased.

ASE COO Tien Wu stressed that good teachers are the most important, followed by good students and good research topics. ASE has been dedicated to developing big data technology, and their mastery in data application has shaped their key competitiveness today, which is the core value of digital transformation. It is always a challenge for Taiwan's forerunners to find the right people to implement their plans. Wu noted that Taiwan's high-profile companies are often eyeing high. But we can barely breathe where the air is getting thinner. If we can't solve our problems on our own, we will no longer stay in the leaders' quadrant!

The talent shortage in the semiconductor industry will be a normality during the next decade. According to the Ministry of Education, the total number of science and engineering (STEM) graduates from Taiwan's colleges every year has decreased from 100,000 to 90,000 from 2017 to 2020, a gap of about 10,000 people.

A feasible solution is to upgrade skills for the 300,000 on-the-field employees adaptable to a new environment of upgrading, cross-industry, and integration to create higher personal value & rewards.

According to IEK of the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), Taiwan's semiconductor industry has nearly 300,000 employees, with 49,000 in IC design houses, 109,000 in wafer foundries, and 132,000 in the packaging and testing sector. It is estimated that the industrial output value in 2021 will reach US$145.9 billion, with an average output value of US$500,000 US per head for high value-added sectors.

Taiwan's area of 36,000 square kilometers is in 137th place out of 200 countries, and its population of 23.52 million account for 0.4% of the global population. But Taiwan's semiconductor output value and production capacity both represent more than 20% of the world total. Moreover, semiconductors belong to the highly energy-consuming industry. Among the countries that rely heavily on imported energy, Taiwan's power generation remains operating in high gear, with electricity consumption per capita ranking in globally 8th place and the total amount of power generated in 17th. The carbon credits and ESG issues arising from carbon emissions will be the topics that Taiwan will face as well as the goals that it must achieve in the next stage.


Colley Hwang, president of DIGITIMES Asia, is a tech industry analyst with more than three decades of experience under his belt. He has written several books about the trends and developments of the tech industry, including Asian Edge: On the Frontline of the ICT World published in 2019, and Disconnected ICT Supply Chain: New Power Plays Unfolding published in 2020.