The CHIPS Act: Demand on Semiconductor Talent Accelerates

Aug 18, 2022

With the recent CHIPS Act announced, urgency for experienced talent heats up across the semiconductor space

 

  • Currently, there is a gap in talent as the semiconductor market faces stronger demand 

  • The biggest talent gaps in the semiconductor market include supply chain, R&D, and operations

  • Opportunity exists due to current market conditions within the broader technology and manufacturing space on obtaining talent 


We are already starting to see a significant impact in the semiconductor space after the CHIPS and Science Act was passed earlier this month.  At a high level, the law allocates $52.7b in federal subsidies to encourage US-based manufacturing capabilities as well as discourage the current reliance on international manufacturing.

“The bill will supercharge our efforts to make semiconductors here in America,” said President Biden of the CHIPS Act. “For the sake of our economy and jobs and costs and our national security, we have to make these semiconductors in America once again.”

Plenty of people are diving into the geopolitical aspects of this move, but there is also an interesting trickle-down in talent from both the executive, entry-level and even mid-management ranks.  There is a massive talent gap between the US and Asia when you consider that since 1990, the US semiconductor manufacturing capability dropped from nearly 40% of global supply to 12% today.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this year, “The world’s largest chip makers are fighting for workers to staff the billion-dollar-plus facilities that they are building around the world to address a shortage of semiconductors. A dwindling supply of qualified workers has worried semiconductor executives for years. Now that concern has been amplified by a global labor shortage, the pandemic-fueled demand for all things digital and a race to bolster local chip-manufacturing capabilities, according to industry officials.”

“The hope is that this investment will help de-risk our reliance on overseas manufacturing for everything from toothbrushes to automobiles,” said Joe Olson, parter at ON Partners.

 

“We’re seeing many of our clients such as NVIDIA, Micron, AMD, and GlobalFoundries continue to invest heavily state-side as they recognize the massive market opportunity in front of them.  This also means that they need to find talented executives who can optimize these investment dollars while also working under the federal framework.”

For example, Micron is announcing a $40 billion investment in memory chip manufacturing, critical for computers and electronic devices, which will create up to 40,000 new jobs in construction and manufacturing. This investment alone will bring the U.S. market share of memory chip production from less than 2 percent to up to 10 percent over the next decade.

We’re are currently working with Samsung, which – on the heels of the semiconductor bill being signed into law – is investing $17 billion in a plant in Austin to build chips for things like smart homes and smart devices,” said Brad Westveld, partner at ON Partners.

Additionally, Qualcomm and GlobalFoundries are announcing a new partnership that includes $4.2 billion to manufacture chips in an expansion of GlobalFoundries’ upstate New York facility. Qualcomm, the leading fabless semiconductor company in the world, announced plans to increase semiconductor production in the U.S. by up to 50 percent over the next five years.


What’s next? Finding executive talent for the semiconductor demand

 

“We anticipate the biggest gaps today are in supply chain, operations and R&D although financial business partners with that skillset will always be significantly valued,” said Olson.

 

“What that means is that more traditional industrial manufacturing businesses are going to be raided by these growth-oriented tech companies that can increase pay, visibility, and resources.  This also creates a defense mechanism for executives at GE, Honeywell, IR, Danaher, etc as they recognize the potential poaching threat and heavily incentivize their key leaders.”

“In addition, there’s still a lot of innovation happening in areas like AI, computer vision and machine learning,” stated Westveld. “So, heads of AI, leaders of machine learning are important.”

 

“The demand and pay for these jobs will increase dramatically in the next decade, with related training happening in colleges and high schools, because it’s not going to matter what the current market is doing. If you’re in those spaces, your job security is going to be really good.”

While ON Partners has been rooted in the semiconductor space since the firm’s inception in 2006, it has since expanded its executive search portfolio throughout the years to address the software, industrial, manufacturing, consumer, life sciences, energy, and cleantech markets.

With experience at the intersection of innovative technology and manufacturing companies, ON is positioned well to craft solutions in identifying semiconductor talent outside of the assumed target sector. And, with many companies stalling on their talent hiring plans due to market conditions, the current environment provides an opportunity for talent acquisition that might have been unavailable or not interested 18 months ago.

“We’re likely to see more opportunistic hiring. Companies need financial, operations, and engineering executives right now and there’s opportunity for those who are not currently rushing to the sidelines to find top-tier talent,” said Westveld.

 

“It’s a great time right now for our clients to be active in the market because there are opportunities to pursue and attract candidates they might not have had the chance to recruit 18 months ago. As 409a valuations go down and options are underwater, the leaders willing to be bold and aggressively invest in new talent are going to see huge dividends over the next decade.

For more information about ON Partners and recent executive search work in the first half of 2022, read the recently published Executive Talent Report.

About ON Partners

Since 2006, ON Partners is the only pure-play executive search firm building diverse C-level and board leadership teams. We rebuilt the institution of executive search for the way you work. Our approach includes present partners who engage with their clients from the first brief to the final decision, individually crafted solutions that are unique to each client, and an easier experience all around. Named by Forbes as one of America’s Best Executive Recruiting Firms and to the Inc. 500/5000 Lists nine times, ON Partners is consistently ranked among the top 20 retained executive search firms in the U.S.

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