Taiwan hits snags in cultivating high-level semiconductor talent

Bryan Chuang, Taipei; Willis Ke, DIGITIMES Asia 0


Taiwan's homegrown semiconductor talent show high cost-performance ratios, but the talent supply shortage is worsening as domestic universities are hitting snags in expanding student enrollment due partly to the lack of ptofessors and partly to the decrease of doctoral students, according to academic sources.

The sources said Google and many other tech players, aware that Taiwanese semiconductor engineers are cheaper to hire, have moved to set up R&D and design centers in Taiwan and poached employees from MediaTek and TSMC with comparatively higher base pay. This has widened the talent crunch at the Taiwan semiconductor industry as many companies also require more talent to support their business expansions.

As such, semiconductor companies have had to urge the Ministry of Education to allow the polytechnic and electrical engineering departments at major universities to expand their student enrollments as much as possible.

But scholars said that Taiwan's high-level doctoral talent cultivation has encountered serious problems. For instance, the Department of Electrical Engineering at the National Taiwan University (NTUEE) has been unable to recruit new professors for several years. Although there are still sporadic resumes received, none of them meet the qualification requirements set by the NTUEE department.

The Ministry of Education wants electrical engineering departments and graduate schools of local universities to enroll more students to train talent for semiconductor and other high-tech industries, but it has not taken into consideration the shortage of professors, the scholars noted. Take the newly established Graduate School of Advanced Technology at NTU as an example. There are not many full-time professors, and the new graduate school has to share professors with NTUEE, they continued.

An NTUEE department professor admitted that a teacher has fixed available time, and there is also a limit in the number of students he can accept or otherwise the quality of students would be sacrificed. Furthermore, the professor lamented that it is unsustainable for professors to take this kind of drudgery without getting extra pay.

There are outside opinions that the government should loosen the restrictions so that people without a doctorate degree can become university professors, and that in order to encourage students to study for a doctorate, the government should increase the stipends of doctoral students, shorten the time for graduation, and reduce their workload of research projects.

In response, scholars noted that if this is actuslly done, it would be a collapse of Taiwan's overall academic research capabilities and Taiwan would henceforth withdraw from the international semiconductor competition arena,

Academic sources indicated that young students now have multiple sources of information, and the opinions of their peers can influence them much more than advice from their teachers, causing many professors to stop persuading students to study for PhDs. The sources lamented that with a severe shortage of doctoral talent, it is an almost impossible task to foster more semiconductor talent in Taiwan.