Why Everyone Wants Chip Engineers?

Chip Engineers: During the global semiconductor chip shortage, another factor that is skyrocketing besides price; is the demand for engineering talent. Companies worldwide are driving up their effort to recruit capable people, varying from simply raising salaries to bribing and spying.

Salaries are Soaring

In recent months, the two world’s biggest chip foundries- Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company(TSMC) and Samsung Electronics, have boosted their worker’s salaries.

TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker that accounts for more than 50% of the global market, had raised workers’ salaries with an average increase of 8%. TSMC reportedly aims to secure more than 8000 professionals this year alone. TSMC also has announced that it is looking for ways to provide subsidies to its employees for buying the company’s shares, the first move of its kind from the company. It is expected that TSMC employees would get up to 15% subsidies on purchasing TSMC stock.

This move was followed by Samsung, which announced a 9% wage rise, the highest bump in a decade. The Korean giant had up its worker’s wages by 7.5% last year and 2.5% in 2021. Samsung also added three more days of paid leave.

Smaller contract chipmakers are joining in to keep up. DB Hi-Tech, a Korean foundry, boosted the annual salary of its employees by 14.3% in April. Vanguard International Semiconductor(VIS) had made a 10% raise last year and promised it would provide a regular salary increase for its workers. VIS is planning to hire more than 1000 people this year.

Companies are also looking into other ways to secure talents. They are opening up university undergraduate courses that guarantee hiring students. Samsung Electronics plans to open the ‘contract course’ at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology(KAIST) and Pohang University of Science and Technology(POSTECH). SK Hynix will establish a contract course at Sogang University and Hanyang University next year.

Everyone Wants Chip Engineer

Legacy chipmakers aren’t the only ones fighting over talents. Now they have to compete with giants from another field that recently joined the chip game. AI, 5G, edge computing, and general digitalization of many areas are opening up new market opportunities. And semiconductor chips are at the heart of almost every technology.

The big techs, Apple, Google, Meta, and Amazon, have entered the chip business for their device product or internet data center. These companies are trying to develop chips on their own to have more control over chip supply and price. In-house chips can also help them provide better software and hardware integration than generic chips because they are designed to meet their applications’ specific requirements.

Automotive companies are also in on this trend. Gartner, a market research firm, predicted that about half of the top 10 auto OEM companies will design their own chips by 2025. General Motors recently posted a hiring notice for a semiconductor design release engineer.

Even Countries are Fighting Over Talents

The competition to attract talent in the chip business is crumpling international affairs. A few weeks ago, Taiwan required advanced semiconductor engineers to get permission from the authorities before going to China.

This move came after the Taiwanese Investigation Bureau had a mass crackdown on Chinese companies and their R&D centers on the island. The authorities concluded that Chinese chip companies have been ‘stealing’ Taiwanese chip engineers through illegal benefits such as stocks and real estate. The bureau then stated that Chinese companies’ illegal poaching of engineers is endangering Taiwan’s national security.

The US is also trying to attract more engineers, especially from Russia. The US is reportedly on its way to easing visa rules for technically qualified Russians with master’s or doctoral degrees. It has also planned a campaign program with various organizations to attract Russian semiconductors engineers and computing experts.

According to the industry, the US has also been increasing the visa issuance to Asian chip engineers. “There has been a significant increase of chip engineers that have gotten specialty occupation visa, called H1-B.” one Korean semiconductor engineer said, “Many tech companies in the US are on a hiring spree for the engineers, and it seems that the government is backing them.”

I'm a journalist based in South Korea. I write about technology with a focus on artificial intelligence, new media and telecommunication businesses. I am very curious about how those three fields could shape our world to be better (or worse, and I'm sure we'll figure out how to tackle the problems). I love getting new information on most random things and making connections out of them. Feel free to contact me to share your stories on work, projects or business.