China boosts efforts to train semiconductor engineers

China is boosting efforts to train domestic talent in semiconductor engineering, aiming to address a shortage exacerbated by U.S. restrictions on advanced chip technology, Reuters news report said.
5G spectrum auction in BelgiumIn the past five years, undergraduate and post-graduate enrolments have surged, thanks to new funding for top universities and the emergence of smaller private schools focused on shorter-term instruction. Some graduates from other fields are being attracted to the fast-growing industry, as entry-level salaries have doubled.

China faces a shortfall of an estimated 200,000 industry workers this year, according to a white paper by the China Center for Information Industry Development and the China Semiconductor Industry Association (CSIA). Closing the gap is crucial, especially as the U.S. seeks to sever China’s access to global supply chains over military concerns.

Experts emphasize the need for prioritizing talent development over immediate supply chain solutions. While emerging chip curriculums in China lack hands-on industry experience, Taiwan’s school-enterprise collaboration is exemplary, with top chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) establishing research centers at four universities.

Some private schools in China are offering short-term solutions, such as chip engineering bootcamps for graduates of tangentially related majors. The long-term campaign to fill the shortage is evidenced by the doubling of master’s enrolments to study chip engineering at ten top universities from 2018 to 2022, to a total of 2,893 students.

Students and experts told Reuters that China’s emerging chips curriculums do not provide the kinds of hands-on industry experience offered by more advanced schools in Taiwan and the United States.

A 2022 survey from Chinese research firm ICWise found more than 60 percent of students studying chip engineering in China graduate with no internship experience in the field.

Chinese universities tend to reward professors across all fields for publishing papers rather than teaching up-to-date methodology that is useful in a company laboratory or chip manufacturing plant, according to recent graduates and academics.

Semiconductor Manufacturing International (SMIC) in 2021 announced a jointly-established School of Integrated Circuits at Shenzhen Technology University.

Master’s enrolments to study chip engineering at 10 top universities nearly doubled between 2018 and 2022 to a total of 2,893 students, according to university data.

The annual salary for an entry-level engineer in the sector has doubled since 2018, from roughly 200,000 yuan ($28,722.43) to 400,000 yuan, according to Hu Yunwang, founder of a Shanghai-based recruitment agency for chips.

A number of private schools have sprung up to offer a short-term solution, with chip engineering bootcamps that purport to provide a fast track and mainly target graduates who majored in a subject tangentially related to chip engineering.

EeeKnow, founded by a former engineer from Arm Ltd in Shanghai in 2015, offers in-person classes on subjects such as Cortex-M3 MCU front-end design and verification in 60 days, priced at between 2,000 and 4,000 yuan.