Technology can only evolve as quickly as the talent that imagines and creates it. Here’s how Singapore’s semiconductor industry draws the brightest minds into the business, and once there, ensures they stay at the top of their game.
1. SINGAPORE INDUSTRY SCHOLARSHIP
The Singapore Industry Scholarship (SgIS) is a government-industry initiative that grooms the next generation of leaders for sectors critical to Singapore’s economy. Scholars benefit from internships and mentorships, and attend dialogue sessions and leadership forums. Aloysius Koh, Xilinx’s first SgIS scholar, interned with the company as an undergrad, during which he was trained in actual industrial requirements, from physical implementation theories to hands-on design work. This helped put him on the fast-track – he completed deliverables for a complex design on 7nm technology within five months of joining Xilinx as a Design Engineer upon graduation. Several companies also offer private scholarships. Lam Research, for instance, awards three scholarships to NTU engineering students each year.
2. INDUSTRIAL POSTGRADUATE PROGRAM
The Industrial Postgraduate Program, an initiative by the Economic Development Board (EDB), offers graduates the opportunity to hone their R&D skills through a combination of study and hands-on experience tackling a real life challenge at a company. AMD Product Development Engineer Chang Jun Qing, who is pursuing his PhD in AI and Machine Learning at NTU, describes the IPP as the best of both worlds – the opportunity to deepen his knowledge in an area he is passionate about, while finding a solution for a challenge that will make a real difference to the company he is working with.
Industry veterans believe in honing talents early – internships are the best route to getting to know the industry, and the role you can play in it. Says Yee Kiat, 25, who interned at ASM and joined the company upon graduating last year: “One thing I liked about my internship is that we were able to work in different departments such as engineering and planning. This allowed us to get exposure to what they did on a day-to-day basis, and to explore what we were really interested in doing. It helped me start my career in the right direction.” Some companies offer fresh grads similar opportunities. Infineon, for instance, took in some 60 SGUnited Trainees this year, and its Jumpstart graduate programme will rotate them through three departments over a two-year period.
Young hires are typically assigned a mentor who provides support and guidance. Says Sylvester Heng who joined Applied Materials in 2016: “My leaders and mentors have supported my development and matched my enthusiasm every step of the way. They provided me with opportunities to partner the best engineering minds across the globe to tackle engineering challenges in my core role, and to bolster my interpersonal skills and enterprise skill sets in my secondary role as Regional Office Management Associate. This has nurtured me into a T-shaped learner, allowing me to simultaneously build domain expertise and cultivate the disposition for collaboration across disciplines.”
5. LIFE-LONG LEARNING
Given the constantly evolving nature of the semiconductor business, life-long learning is essential to keeping skills current. SSMC, for instance, supports its employees’ learning and career development through learning tracks within the SSMC University program, which equips its employees with current and future skills. Each employee receives a personalised learning roadmap or customised development track. The core competency track equips employees with basic to advanced technical skills. In the academic track, the company offers an education sponsorship scheme (LEAP – Life-long learning Education Assistance Program) to assist employees who are interested in furthering their education. In collaboration with ITE, SSMC also offers NITEC courses for its employees in-house. Short-term assignments to parent companies, meanwhile, allow employees to learn from best-in-class organisations.