Building the Semiconductor Engineering Talent Pipeline in Southeast Asia

Kelvin Boey, Patrick Haspel

Apr 02, 2024 / 3 min read

As engineers across the globe continue pushing the boundaries of physics to develop increasingly sophisticated chips, a looming talent shortage threatens to stall the work. Various industry analysts have highlighted the needs. Deloitte, for example, has spelled out what the global semiconductor ecosystem will need over the next decade: tens of thousands of skilled tradespeople to build new manufacturing plants, thousands of electrical engineers to design the chips as well as the tools that make the chips; and other types of engineers and technicians to work inside the fabs.

To help shore up the ecosystem, industry, academia, and governments have been collaborating on a variety of workforce development efforts. The U.S. CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, along with similar measures that have been enacted in other countries, are examples of the investments that governments are making to fund everything from training and R&D to local semiconductor manufacturing.

As a global silicon to systems design leader, Synopsys through its SARA (Synopsys Academic & Research Alliances) program has been an eager participant in workforce development activities in many of the communities worldwide where we have a presence. In this blog post, we’ll spotlight our efforts in Southeast Asia and, in particular, Malaysia, which plays an integral role in the global chipmaking supply chain. 

southeast asia workforce

Training the Trainers in Malaysia with Synopsys Singapore Application Engineers

In the Sarawak state of Malaysia, state-owned universities have been urged by the country’s Education, Innovation and Talent Development Minister to integrate IC design into their electrical/electronic engineering programs to help prepare students to enter the workforce. In response, Sarawak Microelectronics Design (SMD) Semiconductor, a fabless chip design house, recently hosted a four-week “train the trainers” program on analog IC design with expertise from Synopsys. The Synopsys trainers trained educators from the state’s training and higher learning institutions, who were all encouraged to promote IC design careers to their students.

SMD Semiconductor has launched a six-month graduate training program focused on upskilling and reskilling participants. After completing the program, graduates will have opportunities to be connected with job openings in the industry. While this program was custom designed together with our analog application engineering team in Singapore, SMD did tap into some materials from the SARA program, which provides academic and research institutions access to EDA tools and technologies and enablement through classroom material and product training.

Reaching across a broader spectrum of institutions is Malaysia’s Collaborative Microelectronic Design Excellence Centre (CEDEC). A microelectronic research center of Universiti Sains Malaysia, CEDEC procures EDA tool licenses from vendors including Synopsys and provides the licenses for Malaysian public universities to use to train undergraduates in IC design. Similar efforts to enable universities with access to EDA licenses are underway in the Philippines and Thailand. 

Region Ramping Up Workforce Development Efforts

Other countries throughout the Southeast Asia region are also ramping up efforts to nurture the next generation of engineering talent. In Singapore, for example, Synopsys is collaborating through SARA with the Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association (SSIA) and Nanyang Technical University to develop an IC design training program (The university’s Centre for Integrated Circuits and Systems is already equipped with state-of-the-art Synopsys EDA tools.) In Vietnam, Synopsys has signed several memorandums of understanding (MOUs) to grow and advance the local IC design workforce, and there are also ongoing “train the trainer” programs there. In India, the SARA program has implemented a variety of skills enhancement programs, including sponsorship of the Synopsys Semiconductor Lab for Virtual Fab Solutions, enabled with Synopsys TCAD technologies, at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay.

Given the criticality of silicon chips in our modern world, and of the talented people who design and develop these devices, it’s no wonder there’s an urgency to ensure that the talent pool continues to get filled. Synopsys decided to invest in SARA to foster collaboration between those in industry, academia, and government, as this is essential to building the semiconductor industry workforce of the future. Synopsys is pleased to be a part of this. 

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