Inspiring the next generation of potential technical talent in electronics

-November 09, 2017

At the MEMS Executive Congress (MSEC) 2017 in Silicon Valley, I had the pleasure of meeting with two members of the top management team from SEMI, the organization that sponsors this event (last year SEMI integrated the MEMS & Sensors Industry Group into their organization as a strategic partner). Joining me from SEMI were Ajit Manocha, appointed President and CEO in February of this year, and Jonathan Davis, Global VP of Industry Advocacy. Our mutual area of interest was educating young potential engineers for our industry.

Prior to our private meeting in a conference room, Manocha and Davis made a presentation to attendees on the last day of the MEMS Executive Congress.

Ajit Manocha presenting his talk entitled “SEMI 2.0: Supporting MEMS & Sensors Industry Growth and Talent” at the 2017 MEMS Executive Congress. (Image courtesy of Loretta Taranovich)

Jonathan Davis joined Ajit Manocha on-stage to discuss the topic of industry growth and talent (Image courtesy of Loretta Taranovich)

The two leaders discussed talent challenges that the semiconductor industry is now facing in the ‘talent pipeline’ of highly skilled workers. There are so many unfilled key positions in the semiconductor industry; I heard this first-hand from MEMS and sensor companies as well as fab owners at this event. Challenges abound with an aging workforce, retention issues, H1B Visas, diversity, and more.

I was curious to understand how the MEMS & sensors acquisition would fit into the SEMI strategy; when I heard these leaders speak, I understood what SEMI was all about and got a really good feeling for the future by including MEMS & sensors. Plus, FlexTech is also a part of this organization, which makes so much sense. Flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) dovetails nicely with MEMS & sensors as well as with the FAB Owners Association, soon to be a partner as well. I now know what SEMI is all about and it’s a much needed force in the semiconductor/electronics industry today.

In their presentation, Davis and Manocha discussed an MSEC flash poll where some of the biggest talent issues were:

  • Attracting qualified candidates critical to the company’s success
  • Having open, unfilled STEM positions
  • Companies have MEMS/sensor-related jobs not existing three years ago
  • Competing for talent with companies outside the industry

Later, when we met privately, we had a vivid discussion regarding what SEMI does for the growth of the industry and, also about their passion for cultivating tech/engineering talent early on for the global electronics chain. Their overall stated mission is: “SEMI provides industry stewardship and engages our members to advance the interests of the global electronics supply chain.”

Manocha mentioned that when he was at Bell Labs in the '80s, there was a ‘hunger’ in the conference rooms that he sees in the MEMS industry today. Bell Labs solved industry problems, helped customers, and shared what they did with the electronics industry; this is in Manocha’s DNA.

His fear is that the talent pool will slow and in turn so will the semiconductor industry if we don’t do some cultivating of talent now. We discussed the fact that we are probably not going to change our US immigration policies, so we had better focus upon our talent here in the US, but this is not just a US issue. SEMI has an international board of directors that understand the broad global picture. The worldwide semiconductor industry has a growing lack of talent as well and we all depend upon each other for business success, innovation, and industry growth.

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