The South Korean government plans to nurture more than 3,000 skilled experts for the semiconductor industry by 2027, the Ministry of Science and ICT said Monday, a move that follows the high-profile visit of US President Joe Biden to a Samsung Electronics facility amid the global shortage of chips.
The announcement of the plan itself is timely for the domestic semiconductor industry, which is home to the world’s biggest memory chipmaker Samsung and the second-largest DRAM supplier SK Hynix.
Both top-rated chipmakers are scrambling to recruit new talent and retain their top engineers at a time when corporate espionage for chip-related trade secrets is intensifying among key players from Taiwan, China and the United States.
But the scope of the expansion programs to nurture chip engineers is seriously limited. So is the absence of regulatory changes to stave off corporate espionage to protect local chip-makers against a fierce attempt to poach Korean chip experts.
As for the limited scope, the immediate target of increased chip majors is too small. For instance, under the newly unveiled government plan, new departments of semiconductor studies will be set up at four
research institutions: the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, the Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology and the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology. But this will only add to some 200 new skilled experts in the field per year.
Korea produces some 650 semi-conductor majors every year, falling far short of the 1,500 new graduates the domestic industry needs annually to stay competitive.
South Korea’s educational institutions are producing a combined total of about 220 master’s and doctorate holders specializing in semiconductor technology per year, which is far from sufficient for the fast-paced global competition for advanced chip developments.
The shortage of chips and related engineers is not limited to South Korea. Taiwan, home to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., increased the number of students in semiconductor studies departments last year.
The move was part of state-led efforts to support TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker that controls 90 per cent of the market for advanced types of semiconductors.