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Semiconductor Mega Trends and Career Opportunities

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By Dr Abhilasha Gaur

The semiconductor industry is experiencing a profound transformation, propelled by technological advancements, market dynamics, and global initiatives. In India, this transformation is particularly significant, as the nation emerges as a key player in the semiconductor landscape. Let’s delve into the mega trends shaping the semiconductor industry in 2024, the career opportunities they present, and the role of the Electronics Sector Skills Council of India (ESSCI) in preparing professionals for this dynamic field.

Current Updates about the semiconductor Industry in India:

The recent 10th Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2024 signalled the front and centre positioning of semiconductors as crucial to India’s digital economy vision. Major industry announcements during the summit included the Tata Group and South Korea’s SIMMTECH revealing plans for new semiconductor plants in Gujarat. Global corporations like ArcelorMittal, Micron Technologies and Cisco also forged partnerships involving the Indian semiconductor space. This momentum will be further catalysed by Gujarat’s push to manufacture India’s first indigenous chip in 2024 as highlighted by IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnav during the Summit seminar.

Some of the latest approvals & ground breaking events in the semiconductor industry are mentioned below:

·        Semiconductor Fab with 50,000 wfsm capacity – at Dholera, Gujarat

o   Tata Electronics Private Limited (TEPL) in collaboration with Powerchip Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp (PSMC), Taiwan,

·        Semiconductor ATMP (Assembly, Test, Marking and Packaging) unit – at Morigaon, Assam

o   TSAT is developing indigenous advanced semiconductor packaging technologies, including flip chip and ISIP (integrated system in package) technologies

·        Semiconductor ATMP unit for specialized chips – at Sanand, Gujarat

o   CG Power, in partnership with Renesas Electronics Corporation, Japan, and Stars Microelectronics, Thailand, establish a semiconductor unit in Sanand, Gujarat

·        Outsourced Semiconductor Assembly and Testing (OSAT) unit Maharashtra

o   RRP Electronics has tied up with a consortium of European companies to set up a one-of-its-kind semiconductor facility.

Semiconductor Applications Across Diverse Fields:

Semiconductor chips serve as the fundamental building blocks powering a vast array of applications, wielding control over power management, enabling intricate power electronics systems, and orchestrating indispensable functions within electronic devices. From the ubiquitous smartphones and computers to the intricate network of IoT devices, semiconductor chips form the backbone, fuelling innovation and driving the seamless integration of technology into our daily lives.

·        Driving Automotive Innovation: Semiconductor technology has spearheaded transformative advancements in the automotive sector, ushering in a new era of intelligent and dependable vehicles. By seamlessly integrating semiconductor components, automobiles have evolved to possess heightened intelligence, unparalleled reliability, and superior performance. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) rely on semiconductor solutions for critical features such as collision avoidance, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. Moreover, semiconductor chips are instrumental in the development of autonomous vehicles, powering sophisticated sensor systems that process data from cameras, LiDAR, and radar in real-time decision-making processes.

·        Revolutionizing Telecommunications: Semiconductor innovation is at the forefront of transforming the telecommunications landscape. With the emergence of 5G networks, semiconductor solutions are crucial for powering base stations, antennas, and network infrastructure, enabling faster data speeds, lower latency, and unparalleled connectivity. In addition to network infrastructure, semiconductor chips are integral to the development of smartphones, enabling advanced features such as AI-driven cameras, augmented reality, and facial recognition. Furthermore, within the telecom sector, IoT devices such as smart home devices and wearables rely on semiconductor technology for connectivity and processing capabilities, further advancing the interconnected world.

·        Empowering Healthcare Technologies: Semiconductor technology is revolutionizing healthcare by driving advancements in medical diagnostics and patient care. Medical imaging devices, including MRI and CT scanners, heavily rely on semiconductor components for signal processing and image reconstruction, enabling precise diagnostics and treatment planning. Semiconductor chips also power medical monitoring devices such as wearable fitness trackers and smart health monitors, allowing for continuous health tracking and remote patient monitoring. Additionally, in medical equipment such as infusion pumps and pacemakers, semiconductor technology ensures precise control and monitoring, enhancing patient safety and treatment efficacy.

·        Transforming Hearables and Wearables: The integration of semiconductor technology has led to remarkable advancements in hearable and wearable devices, revolutionizing the way we interact with technology. Hearables, such as wireless earbuds and smart headphones, leverage semiconductor chips for Bluetooth connectivity, noise cancellation, and audio processing, delivering immersive audio experiences. Similarly, wearable devices, including smartwatches and fitness trackers, rely on semiconductor solutions for sensors, data processing, and connectivity, enabling seamless health and activity tracking. Moreover, augmented reality (AR) glasses and virtual reality (VR) headsets incorporate semiconductor components for high-resolution displays, precise motion tracking, and immersive user experiences, pushing the boundaries of interactive technology.

Career Opportunities in Semiconductor Technology:

As the semiconductor industry evolves in response to these mega trends, it creates exciting career opportunities for professionals across the value chain – designing, fabrication and packaging. From semiconductor design and manufacturing to research and development, there is a growing demand for skilled professionals who can innovate and drive technological advancements in the industry.

The sector is expected to see more than 800,000 to 1 million job openings over the next five years, says staffing company Randstad. The government recently approved $15 billion worth of investments into the sector including from the Tata group. India’s burgeoning semiconductor sector is facing a surge in demand for talent, fuelled by new investments and the government’s ambitious plan to transform the country into a chip manufacturing hub.

1.      Semiconductor Design Engineer: Semiconductor design engineers play a crucial role in developing the architecture and circuitry of semiconductor chips. They utilize tools like Electronic Design Automation (EDA) software and simulation tools to design and optimize chip layouts for performance, power efficiency, and manufacturability.

3.      Research Scientist: Research scientists in the semiconductor industry focus on exploring new materials, devices, and technologies to push the boundaries of semiconductor innovation. They conduct experiments, analyze data, and collaborate with cross-functional teams to develop next-generation semiconductor solutions.

4.      Material Engineers – Material engineers in the semiconductor industry are pivotal in researching, selecting, and optimizing the materials used in semiconductor device fabrication. Their expertise spans a wide range of materials, including silicon, gallium arsenide, and various compound semiconductors. Material engineers work closely with semiconductor design teams to ensure that the chosen materials meet the performance requirements of the intended applications while also considering factors such as cost, scalability, and reliability. Additionally, they play a crucial role in developing new materials and processes to push the boundaries of semiconductor technology, enabling advancements in areas such as miniaturization, power efficiency, and functionality.

5.      Product Marketing Manager: Product marketing managers play a vital role in bringing semiconductor products to market. They conduct market research, develop marketing strategies, and collaborate with sales teams to promote semiconductor products and drive revenue growth.

6.      Quality Assurance Engineer: Quality assurance engineers ensure that semiconductor products meet the highest standards of quality and reliability. They develop and implement test plans, conduct performance testing, and analyze data to identify and address any issues or defects in semiconductor products.

7.      Packaging experts: Packaging experts in the semiconductor industry are instrumental in developing and implementing packaging solutions that safeguard semiconductor chips. Their role entails meticulous selection of packaging materials, designing efficient packaging structures to ensure protection against environmental factors and mechanical stresses, and optimizing designs for thermal management and electrical performance. They collaborate closely with design and manufacturing teams to ensure that packaging solutions meet stringent industry standards while balancing factors such as cost-effectiveness and manufacturability.

8.      Clean room specialists: They play a pivotal role in maintaining the pristine conditions necessary for semiconductor fabrication processes. They are responsible for meticulously managing and monitoring cleanroom environments to prevent contamination that could compromise the quality and reliability of semiconductor devices. Clean room specialists enforce strict cleanliness protocols, perform regular inspections, and oversee cleaning procedures to ensure compliance with industry standards and regulations. Their expertise ensures that semiconductor manufacturing facilities operate in controlled environments conducive to high-quality production.

9.      Machine maintenance technicians – They are essential for sustaining the operational efficiency and reliability of semiconductor manufacturing equipment. Their responsibilities include conducting routine maintenance tasks, performing diagnostics, troubleshooting equipment issues, and executing repairs as needed to minimize downtime and optimize production throughput. Machine maintenance technicians also play a crucial role in implementing preventive maintenance schedules, identifying opportunities for equipment upgrades or optimizations, and ensuring compliance with safety regulations and operational standards. Their expertise contributes to the overall efficiency and longevity of semiconductor manufacturing operations.

10.   Safety protocol checkers – These people are integral to maintaining a safe and secure work environment within semiconductor manufacturing facilities. They are responsible for enforcing safety regulations, conducting regular inspections to identify potential hazards, and implementing corrective measures to mitigate risks and prevent accidents. Safety protocol checkers also play a vital role in developing and implementing safety training programs, conducting safety audits, and promoting a culture of safety awareness among employees. Their diligence and vigilance help to safeguard the well-being of personnel, protect semiconductor manufacturing equipment, and maintain the integrity of semiconductor processes.

Homegrown Design Startups

India’s semiconductor journey is not just about attracting global giants but also nurturing homegrown talent. Startups like Signalchip, Saankhya Labs, Syosis, and Cosmic Circuits are developing cutting-edge semiconductor solutions, from 5G chips to AI processors and automotive radar systems. With the availability of indigenous chip design capabilities, India is poised to become a hub for semiconductor innovation, offering exciting career prospects for aspiring engineers and entrepreneurs.

Role of NCVET – National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) courses

While India boasts a robust engineering ecosystem, addressing the talent gap in semiconductor design remains a priority. According to a Deloitte study, the industry is projected to require over one million skilled workers by 2030. To cater the demand of the semiconductor & ESDM sector, MSDE under chairmanship of Dr Nirmaljeet Singh Kalsi, Chairman National Council for Vocational Education and Training (NCVET) has constituted a committee for developing strategies, addressing the urgent need for skilled workforce in the Semiconductor Industry. This committee consists of members from NCVET, MeitY, ESSCI, AICTE & DGT, which is working on creating a roadmap for the talent capacity building and making our youth industry ready.

 Qualifications: National Occupational Standards by ESSCI

As the field becomes more specialized, advanced degrees or skill training provide a competitive edge. Specialized qualifications like IC Package, VLSI Design, and Package Design enhance a designer’s expertise. As on date ESSCI has developed 25 NSQF aligned and approved qualifications on semiconductors (Design, Packaging & Manufacturing segment) and is also planning to develop more qualifications as per the need & demand of the industry especially on the Clean Room, Machine Maintenance and other related fragments, which are the need of the hour.

Short Term Qualifications & Upskilling NOS’s

ESSCI offers focused a range of qualifications covering the complete value chain of the semiconductor industry. Short Term courses such as VLSI Design Engineer, concentrating on designing SOC-module functions using software, Embedded Full Stack Engineer, IoT Hardware Analyst are some of the top courses offered for pursuing engineering graduates to gain the knowledge of EDA Tools and system design. ESSCI also provides qualifications for Wafer Back Grinding Engineer and Wafer Dicing Engineer, specialising in wafer manufacturing tasks which can be taught to ITI / Diploma students. ESSCI also has foundation / upskilling courses in the field of Nano Science & Advance Nano Science which is also in great demand. Also, there are some basic courses on the Industrial Safety – Electrical & Hazchem which are very crucial & important for the industrial safety requirements. The complete list of our qualifications along with their model curriculum are all uploaded on our website – https://essc-india.org/qualification-packs.php   In conclusion, the semiconductor mega trends present unprecedented opportunities for India to assert its leadership in the global semiconductor industry. Through strategic investments, policy support, and talent development initiatives, India is poised to capitalize on these trends, driving innovation, fostering entrepreneurship, and creating a thriving semiconductor ecosystem for generations to come. For those embarking on careers in the semiconductor sector, the future is indeed bright, filled with possibilities to shape the world of tomorrow through the transformative power of semiconductors.

By Dr Abhilasha Gaur is Chief Operating Officer, Electronics Sector Skills Council of India

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