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Chip talent hiring

Samsung hunts for top talent amid chip industry hiring war

Feb 03, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Samsung Electronics engineers check equipment in a clean room.
Samsung Electronics engineers check equipment in a clean room.

Semiconductor giant Samsung Electronics Co. is looking for top talent amid an industry-wide push to recruit high-skilled workers to capitalize on the expected semiconductor boom alongside an economic recovery.

Global chipmakers, including Micron Technology Inc. and Taiwan’s TSMC, are engaged in aggressive hiring to snap up veteran engineers to keep up with demand for chips, particularly for those used in advanced electronic gadgets.

Samsung, the world’s biggest memory chip supplier and top maker of smartphones, on Monday posted a global recruitment notice to hire experienced workers in dozens of areas related to its chip-making division.

A large chunk of new employment will go to jobs linked to next-generation chips such as Z-NAND, a specialized high-performance flash memory variant Samsung is producing to compete against rival products such as Intel Corp.’s Optane solid-state drives.

The South Korean tech giant is also expanding its workforce in the automotive chip division to secure experts in automobile DRAMs, infotainment systems, advanced driver-assistance systems and image sensors.

For its Munich plant, Samsung is seeking to recruit vehicle LED experts, while it is looking for experienced engineers in the graphics processing unit (GPU) and artificial intelligence (AI) fields at its Austin and San Jose plants in the US.

AT THE DOORSTEP OF SUPER CYCLE

Samsung’s aggressive hiring comes as the global semiconductor industry is widely seen to be entering a “supercycle.”

Samsung and other global foundry players are currently running their plants at full capacity as makers of cars and electronic devices compete for chips amid depleting supplies.

The foundry boom, which analysts and industry officials expect to persist throughout the year, was caused by surging chip orders as consumer demand for TVs, smartphones, laptops and cars has bounced back from the COVID-19 crisis sooner than expected.

Sitting on a cash pile of more than 100 trillion won ($90 billion), Samsung is also known to be pursuing mergers and acquisitions, with some automotive chipmakers touted as prime targets.

According to market research firm Omdia, the global semiconductor market is forecast to grow to $489 billion this year from $415.5 billion in 2020.

MICRON, TSMC FUEL COMPETITION

Samsung’s rivals are also actively seeking to hire workers, fueling fierce competition in a hunt for talent.

Micron, the world’s No. 3 DRAM maker and the fifth-largest NAND player, is in the process of hiring workers for its plants in Asia, including Singapore and India.

TSMC, the world's leading contract chipmaker, has begun recruiting engineers for its planned wafer fab in the US. The Taiwanese company has said it will invest $12 billion to build a 5-nanometer process foundry plant in Phoenix, Arizona by 2024.

According to Korea-based Yuanta Securities Co., the combined capital expenditure of five leading chipmakers – Samsung, Intel, TSMC, Micron and SK Hynix Inc. – is expected to rise to a record $95.2 billion this year, up 28% from $74.3 billion in 2020.

Samsung hunts for top talent amid chip industry hiring war

TALENT OUTFLOW CONCERNS

The industry’s hiring war raises concerns among some chipmakers over talent outflow as they are struggling to retain experienced workers.

Last week, SK Hynix workers vented their dissatisfaction over the company’s performance bonus plans, with some engineers hinting at moving to rival companies for better pay.

SK Hynix said on Jan. 28 that its employees will get a bonus equivalent to 20% of their annual basic salary, but some workers publicly complained that the amount is too low given the company’s decent earnings.

SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won offered to return his 2020 salary to appease angry workers at its chip subsidiary, while SK Hynix Chief Executive Lee Seok-hee promised to reconsider its bonus scheme next year.

“Chip engineers produced by local universities are falling far short of rising demand in the industry. Competition to secure talent will get fierce with growth in AI and smart cars,” said Hwang Cheol-seong, materials science and engineering professor at Seoul National University.

Write to Jeong-Soo Hwang at hjs@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.

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