TSMC and Rapidus fabs fuel semiconductor talent shortage in Japan

Chiang, Jen-Chieh; Jerry Chen, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: AFP

In response to the establishment of semiconductor facilities by major manufacturers in Japan, including TSMC's wafer plant in Kumamoto and Rapidus's new facility in Hokkaido, the demand for semiconductor engineers in Japan has reached critical levels.

Reports from Kyodo and Nikkei highlight that, according to a survey conducted by Japanese recruiting company Recruit Holdings, the demand for semiconductor engineers in the fiscal year 2022 (2022/4~2023/3) increased rapidly to 3.8 times that of the fiscal year 2017.

During the first half of 2023 (January to June), the demand for semiconductor-related technical professionals was 4.6 times higher than in 2017.

Regions with new semiconductor facilities, such as Kumamoto in Kyushu, where TSMC's new plant is located, and Hokkaido, where Rapidus aims to produce 2-nanometer chips, are experiencing the most significant need for semiconductor engineers.

Recruit Holding's statistics reveal that in the fiscal year 2022, the demand for semiconductor engineers in Hokkaido and the Tohoku region was 5.4 times higher than in 2017. In Kyushu and Okinawa, this demand reached 5.2 times the 2017 levels.

Comparing 2013, 2022, and 2023, the demand for semiconductor engineers has increased by over 10 times, highlighting the substantial growth in the industry's workforce needs.

The talent shortage in the semiconductor industry in Japan began to surface in 2016 after semiconductor companies underwent layoffs in the 2010s. This trend intensified with TSMC's announcement of a new plant in Kumamoto in 2021 and Rapidus's establishment in 2022, leading to a further increase in job openings.

In the semiconductor industry, the areas of equipment and materials, where Japan has a relative advantage, are experiencing rapid growth in job openings. In contrast, job openings in semiconductor manufacturing for logic ICs and memory are growing at a slower pace.

Looking at the fiscal year 2022, nearly half of the job openings in the semiconductor industry for engineers were related to equipment and component development. Semiconductor material development, quality management, and assurance constituted almost 20%, with the remainder focused on semiconductor component development.

During the construction period of semiconductor wafer fabs, the gathered supply chains gradually formed semiconductor clusters. The completion of wafer fabs comes with the possibility of a surge in job openings for engineers in semiconductor component development.

Amidst the scarcity of semiconductor engineers, a notable trend involves seasoned professionals entering the workforce. According to Reuters, Rapidus, founded in 2022 to rejuvenate Japan's semiconductor manufacturing, has attracted a wealth of experienced individuals from the heyday of Japan's semiconductor industry, some even exceeding the age of 60. This diverse talent pool encompasses individuals with expertise in semiconductor manufacturing, IC design, and the component industry. As of December 2023, Rapidus boasts 280 employees, solidifying its commitment to this resurgence.