Despite rising sanctions along with increased efforts to boost local talent in both the United States and China, TSMC and other Taiwan chip manufacturers are teaming up with the government to reinforce local semiconductor workforce through investment in new grad schools targeting semiconductor chip technology programmes.
Taiwanese authorities and leading local chipmakers, including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited (TSMC) are investing at least US$300 million to kickstart graduate school programs aimed at the semiconductor industry. This move aims to protect the island’s chip economy as the US and China work to keep their chip production local.
TSMC is the world’s biggest chipmaker, and local peers including MediaTek and Powerchip Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. told Nikkei Asia they will endorse this campaign to build additional high-end chip schools. The companies said that talented employees are key to keeping the chip industry competitive.
Taiwan’s semiconductor industry is second globally to the US, and has been undergoing workforce deficits over the past few years, despite leading the way in cutting-edge technology research. China is also rapidly acquiring more skilled chip engineers to bolster their own workforce; two Chinese government-backed chip projects in 2019 and 2020 have collectively hired more than 100 veteran engineers and managers from TSMC.
Chu Chun-chang, director-general of the Department of Higher Education of Taiwan’s Ministry of Education, told Nikkei Asia that they have received applications from four top Taiwanese universities to establish new schools that are set to nurture future high-end talent on semiconductors and artificial intelligence and receive ongoing support from industry players.
According to these newly drawn up plans, each new college will require at least NT$200 million (US$7 million) in annual funding, and this commitment will need to last for at least eight to twelve years, Chu said.
This totals to at least US$300 million for these first four schools over the next twelve years, and these investments are set to increase once more schools and programmes follow suit. TSMC alone will commit at least NT$100 million a year to the four schools for at least 10 years.
National Yangming Chiaotung University is the first to be granted permission to start a new college, and development is set to begin next month.
Semiconductor chips are essential to powering the functions of leading technology used every day, from smartphones to data centres, to supercomputers. Taiwan’s investment marks strategic importance for their semiconductor industry, as they continue to compete against the US and China as well as meet global demands. As the world suffers from chip shortages due to supply chain complications brought on by the ongoing pandemic, affected industries range from smartphones and PCs, to automobiles. Germany and Japan have sought Taiwan’s support to ease disruptions to their automobile industry-dominant economies, and Taiwan’s ongoing efforts may assist in maintaining their place in the global semiconductor industry.