Tackling the Global Tech Talent Shortage with STEM Education

Patrick Haspel

Oct 25, 2022 / 4 min read

When President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 on a sunny August day at the White House, the move signaled a renewed interest in bolstering the U.S. semiconductor industry. Leaders from various corners of the chipmaking ecosystem—including Synopsys Chairman and CEO Aart de Geus—were on hand to witness what will be an infusion of $52 billion into American chip manufacturing and research and development over five years.

While there seems to be some light at the end of the global chip shortage tunnel, the recent spate of silicon scarcities—particularly in hard-hit industries like automotive, medical, and consumer electronics—have shined a spotlight on these amazing little devices. People outside of our industry now recognize the vital role semiconductors play in so many of the things we use every day, from fitness trackers to appliances and cars. More of us also understand how vulnerable the U.S., which lags in chip manufacturing capacity compared to global competitors, is from a supply chain standpoint.

So, the CHIPS Act holds great promise. But the big question is, will there be enough engineering talent to design and manufacture the chips?

Workforce development in the semiconductor industry is a hot topic these days—and it’s an area where collaboration between business and academia can reap lasting rewards. We do our part through the Synopsys Academic & Research Alliances (SARA), which is dedicated to furthering university research and education through collaborations and shared programs. Read on to learn how our investment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education can help nurture the next generation of engineers.

Engineers drawing diagram on glass wall

Nurturing the Next Generation of Engineering Talent with Purdue University

One of the many notable universities in the world that we collaborate with is Purdue University. Our work together so far demonstrates how we can help develop engineering talent to support the industry’s needs. Among our recent highlights:

In September, Purdue University was again in the headlines for the VIPs that visited the campus during its Fall Hybrid Industrial Roundtable, a popular career fair that draws 12,000 engineering, science, and technology students each year to meet with representatives from nearly 400 companies, including Synopsys. Coinciding with the career fair was a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. Secretaries Blinken and Raimondo were joined by Indiana Gov. Eric J. Holcomb and Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) for a tour of Purdue’s Birck Nanotechnology Center, which supports research in nano electronics, photonics, energy, micro electro-mechanical systems, and more. Aside from the tour, the group also participated in a panel discussion on building a semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem, where they discussed what the CHIPS and Science Act would mean to Indiana. The state is positioned to play a key role the U.S. semiconductor manufacturing sector.

The CHIPS Act and Science Act is “an investment in research and development, workforce, public-private partnerships to rebuild the semiconductor supply chain here in the United States,” Raimondo noted during the “fireside chat.” Blinken said, “If you need a jolt of optimism, it’s right here. Optimism about our country, optimism about the future, it’s all right here. This is, I think, the most exciting human fab that I’ve ever seen. And building the next generation of leaders in technology—it’s incredibly powerful.”

The investment comes at an opportune time. Raimondo pointed out that what most companies are worried about is the lack of talent. “The rate-limiting factor to growth is talent, and it’s at every level,” she said. “What we are envisioning is…bringing together universities, with companies, with the federal government to solve problems. Interdisciplinary hubs of research and development to solve problems.”

One way to address the talent shortage and tight labor market is to open up the opportunities more widely. “If we don’t, as a country, as an industry, figure out how to tap into and unleash the talent of women in tech companies, we will not compete,” said Raimondo.

To advise on the R&D aspects of the CHIPS Act, the U.S. Department of Commerce has appointed the first members of its Industrial Advisory Committee. Deirdre Hanford, chief security officer at Synopsys, is one of the appointees. The committee will share advice on the science and technology needs of the country’s microelectronics industry, the national strategy on microelectronics research, and opportunities for new public-private partnerships.

Hanford also recently attended the first on-site meeting of the Semiconductor Degree Leadership Board (SDLB) at Purdue, providing input on the university’s semiconductor degree programs.

“I am impressed at Purdue’s bold plans to turbocharge semiconductor engineering education on Purdue’s campus and beyond. Purdue has gathered an impressive set of industry leaders on their SDLB to provide input to and support of those plans. Synopsys is pleased to participate in this important initiative.”
– Deirdre Hanford, Chief Security Officer, Synopsys

Driving Semiconductor Innovation with Hands-on Experiences

Funding from the CHIPS Act is expected to make an impact on semiconductor research and talent development. With our leading role in the chip design, verification, and IP ecosystem, Synopsys can help drive the semiconductor innovation the nation needs. And our collaborations with the academic world provides students with real-world, hands-on engineering experiences as well as, in some cases, a head start on their careers. From access to our software and technical experts to joint curriculum development and internship/co-op programs for early-career and entry-level positions, Synopsys stands ready to empower future industry leaders.

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