The semiconductor industry is growing rapidly as global demand for chips increases. Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and renewable energy are leading the way as companies also race to expand their data center capabilities. For chipmakers, this demand is a good sign.
Thanks to last year’s CHIPS and Science Act, which provides significant funding and incentives for chipmakers bringing their business to the U.S., much of the industry’s forthcoming growth will take place in America. However, a lack of skilled workers is projected to be a major challenge for the industry over the next decade.
According to a recent report from The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), the chip industry will see a shortfall of 67,000 workers by 2030. This includes technicians, computer scientists, and engineers.
For many years, the U.S. has lagged behind other nations both in terms of semiconductor manufacturing and design. Yet, given the importance of chips and their role in advanced technologies like AI, the government has taken significant steps to change this narrative. The CHIPS Act is the cornerstone measure. However, additional partnerships between the government, chipmakers, and industry associations will be needed to solve this sweeping challenge.
Notably, the U.S. economy as a whole is bracing for a shortage of 1.4 million technicians, computer scientists, and engineers by the end of the decade—meaning this problem isn’t limited to the chip sector.
Meanwhile, the domestic semiconductor industry is projected to grow by nearly 115,000 jobs by 2030. More than half of those positions risk going unfilled. Of the roughly 67,000 jobs in danger, 39% are for technicians, 41% are for engineers, and 20% are for computer scientists.
Despite the looming challenge, the outlook remains positive. In a statement, SIA board chair Matt Johnson said, “Semiconductor workers are the driving force behind growth and innovation in the chip industry and throughout the U.S. economy. Effective government-industry collaboration can overcome the talent shortage facing our industry.”
Solving the chip worker shortage in the U.S. won’t be easy. The SIA proposes a trio of core recommendations to begin filling the void. The first is “strengthening support for regional partnerships aimed at growing the pipeline for skilled technicians for semiconductor manufacturing.”
Notably, Arm recently announced an initiative to bolster the global industry workforce which brings chipmakers, universities, and researchers together to improve access to resources and opportunities. Similar initiatives will be needed to further fill the gap.
The SIA also discussed the importance of growing “the domestic STEM pipeline for engineers and computer scientists.” Meanwhile, the third pillar focuses on attracting and retaining international talent.
Dan Martin, senior economist and lead researcher at Oxford Economics said in the SIA statement, “The CHIPS Act set the stage for U.S. long-run investment and increased global competitiveness in semiconductor design and production. Moving forward, tens of thousands of new post-secondary-trained workers will need to fill the roles created as the industry increases their productive capacity in the U.S.”
In the meantime, labor shortages are already impacting U.S. chip ambitions. TSMC was recently forced to delay production at its new 4nm plant in Arizona due to not having enough skilled workers. With firms including Intel, NXP Semiconductor, Onsemi, and more expected to expand in Arizona, this issue will be compounded in the coming years.
Bearing this in mind, growing the semiconductor industry’s workforce is a top priority. For the U.S., returning to a place of global chip leadership demands a strong pool of skilled workers. The latest analysis and guidance from the SIA should serve as a strong motivator for chipmakers and government officials alike to take action now before it’s too late.