India’s Key To Becoming A Global Semiconductor Hub: Skilled Manpower In Semiconductor Manufacturing
Skilling will always remain the core of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ As per a report by Talent 101, the global semiconductor industry is facing a significant skills gap, with an estimated 10,000 open positions in USA alone The same report also states that the industry will require more than one million skilled professionals by 2025 to keep up with the growing demand for semiconductors
Skilling will always remain the core of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. As per a report by Talent 101, the global semiconductor industry is facing a significant skills gap, with an estimated 10,000 open positions in USA alone. The same report also states that the industry will require more than one million skilled professionals by 2025 to keep up with the growing demand for semiconductors.
This shortage is expected to aggravate in the coming years as demand for semiconductors continues to grow. With a population of over 1.3 billion and a strong education system, India has the potential to become a talent powerhouse in the semiconductor industry to mitigate this acute shortage of talent. However, to do so, India must focus on building the right skills and capabilities.
As per a report by the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), India is home to over 200 semiconductor design and embedded software companies and therefore it is an opportunity, presenting itself. As the country's demand for semiconductors continues to grow at a rapid pace, meeting this demand can be a challenge and thereby a dire need to increase its pool of skilled manpower to support the industry.
Skilled manpower augments all companies to design and develop new products, improve manufacturing processes and ensure quality control. Skilled manpower can also help companies to innovate and stay ahead of the competition. India would need around 1.5 million skilled workers in the semiconductor industry by 2026-27 as a conservative estimate. Currently, the country has a much lesser pool of skilled manpower as compared to the anticipated estimates.
In an overall context, this segment is critical for the development of several key sectors to include electronics, AI/ML, telecommunications, space, defence and aerospace as also automotive to name a few. As per statistics and research metrics, Indian semiconductor market was worth nearly $23.2 billion in 2021 and is further projected to reach $80.3 billion by the year 2028, growing at the CAGR of 17.10% in the forecast period. Correspondingly, the global market for semiconductors is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.7% from 2021 to 2028. It is notable that semiconductor industry is a key player in the global economy with a market value of $527.88 billion in 2021.
Recognizing the importance of the semiconductor industry, the government has taken several measures with requisite policy interventions. The government's 'Make in India' initiative, launched in 2014, aims to promote manufacturing in India and make the country a global manufacturing hub. The government has launched several initiatives to promote semiconductor production in India. Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for the electronics sector, which includes a $1.7 billion incentive package for companies that set up semiconductor manufacturing facilities in India is a pathbreaking initiative.
The Design Linked Incentive (DLI) and various schemes to include Chips to Startup (C2S) and Scheme for Promotion of Electronic Components and Semiconductors (SPECS) are enabling initiatives in this space as well. Correspondingly, the government has also launched several programs to develop a pool of skilled manpower to support the semiconductor industry of the future. AICTE has introduced changes in curriculum recently and the industry needs to contribute in this arena now to galvanise and nurture the talent space for the future.
There exists a need for India to develop a strong ecosystem for the semiconductor industry to include supply chain management besides design and manufacturing facilities. While there are numerous steps that the government is taking to bridge this gap, more needs to be done to create a highly skilled workforce to support the growth of the semiconductor industry. Taiwan has been successful in building a skilled semiconductor workforce by establishing public-private partnerships that focus on training and certification. Similarly, South Korea has invested heavily in STEM education and has established research centres to develop new technologies.
The country's strong talent pool has attracted global semiconductor companies, which have set up their operations in South Korea. Singapore has also focused on developing its talent pool by establishing research centres, partnering with universities and investing in its education system. These models and best practices can be dovetailed as part of overall policy in our context as well. The government has launched several initiatives to develop the skills of engineers and entrepreneurs.
Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (SANKALP) program, which aims to provide training to around 10 million people in various sectors, including the ESDM/ semiconductor industry has been launched. Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) scheme to provide skill development training to youth across the country has also been launched under aegis of National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). Skill India Mission, launched in 2015 is on its appreciated trajectory as well.
Creating a skilled workforce is not just about providing training and education. It is also about creating an environment conducive to innovation and entrepreneurship. The three pillars to make this a reality are a supportive policy environment and incentives to promote the production of semiconductors in the country, academia providing a dynamic curriculum relevant to the needs of the industry and industry collaborating with academia.
The industry needs to step up now and collaborate with academia to provide training and internship opportunities to students, invest in R&D to develop new technologies and products as also fund exchange opportunities for students in foundries abroad. The industry also needs to focus on developing a strong supply chain and manufacturing facilities to support the growth of the semiconductor industry in India.
The creation of quality manpower is not a one-time effort but a continuous process that requires sustained investment and effort of the Government, Industry and the Academia in unison. We have been a witness to the pandemic and the vaccine supply chains with their dynamics. Skilled manpower in the future will be at a premium and will come with a price. There could be a possibility, when some nation states could propagate an artificial deficit of trained manpower in this domain, putting a premium on their own skilled workforce.
Capabilities take a long time to accrue fruition whereas intentions can change overnight. India possesses unmatched talent and presently stands at the inflection of scale and speed of manufacturing. It also has the cerebral prowess, intent and capacity to become a global R&D hub. It is therefore an imperative to create a robust ecosystem for a future ready skilled workforce with an additional impetus on increasing women’s labour force participation rate (LFPR) in electronics as well as in chip design and manufacturing sectors for the future.
The author of this article is Anurag Awasthi, Vice President of India Electronics and Semiconductors Association steering Semiconductor & ESDM Policy, Government affairs & engagements at both Centre as well as Eight States/ UTs, corporate communications and international collaborations.