The semiconductor sector is expanding at an astonishing rate. Over the next three to four years, there will be a need for an additional 3,000–5,000 engineers in the South Wales region alone. Each of these positions will create three or four further positions in the supply chain – that’s a potential of around 20,000 jobs. This is exacerbated by a significant number of the current workforce reaching retirement in the next four to five years.
Routes and messages weren’t clear in terms of qualifications. Students interested in engineering were finding the offerings too vast and vague and were unable to see a pathway they could follow that would lead them to an actual job. The semiconductor industry is very niche within the engineering and manufacturing sector. While there are plenty of options for more standard professions, such as electrical engineering, there was a distinct lack of go-to courses and qualifications that fitted the requirements of this area.
Given that a clearer plan was needed through from level 2 and 3 up to degree level, Newport Wafer Fab realised that they needed the knowledge base and expertise that only expert consultants could provide.
Sitting down with a Semta consultant gave clarity in terms of what was possible. Pulling on 20–30 years’ experience, our consultant was able to use both current options, as well as drawing on those that used to be available and bringing them back into use. Where gaps were discovered, modules from other qualifications were added in, creating ‘mix and match’ solutions to meet the requirements.
This overall in-depth knowledge allowed timelines to be reduced from 18 months to 6 months. Where it would have taken Newport Wafer Fab employees months to syphon through all the offerings and variations, Semta accomplished it in two days. In addition to time, this has also led to significant financial savings.
Newport Wafer Fab now has a clear and defined framework that will incite students to pursue a career in the semiconductor industry and, importantly, feed the skills shortage. Beginning at level 2, the pathway captures attention early and leads the students forward, so that they know what to study and where. In addition, it gives them the confidence that there will be a career at the end of it.
The process also identified any continuing gaps, meaning that these can be addressed moving forward. It also allows Newport Wafer Fab to demonstrate to bodies such as the Welsh Assembly Government the benefits of the pathway, whether it should be subsidised and where funding should be applied.
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