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Driving Semiconductor Skills with Semiconductor Education Alliance Partners

New alliance attracts a wide range of partners from academia, government bodies and industry to address semiconductor skills challenges.
By Khaled Benkrid, Senior Director, Education and Research, Arm

Worldwide there is a shared consensus that the semiconductor industry is suffering from a shortage of skills and talent. In my role as the head of the Arm education and academic engagements team, and as an ex-academic faculty member myself, I have seen the skills mismatch from both sides: academia and industry. On the one hand, the number of graduates produced by Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), like universities, has never been higher. But on the other hand, there remains a clear mismatch between the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) needed by the semiconductor and wider tech industries and what is being produced by these HEIs.

This is a systematic problem, with the global education system unable to deal with this skills challenge as it is. Indeed, the current education framework is largely predicated on a relatively stable job skills map and assumes a large student intake every year over a typical five-year period. Such relative stability warrants and funds a large initial, but subsequently infrequent, investment in curriculum development and training. However, we know that these assumptions are no longer valid.

Looking at software and system engineering, for instance, we know that the skills required will significantly change in the next five years, largely due to the rise of emerging technologies like AI. This requires a greater understanding of the skills that are needed in the semiconductor industry, which can then be fed rapidly into what is taught at schools and HEIs. We also need greater flexibility across education systems and industry training programs worldwide to adapt learning programs and adopt these feedback and insights from industry KSA requirements.

An alliance of many partners

Addressing this skills challenge is a key reason why Arm and our partners across academia, government bodies and the technology sector announced the Semiconductor Education Alliance. Through Arm’s position as one of the most influential companies in the semiconductor industry and our broad ecosystem that has touchpoints across every single technology worldwide, we want to help bring together partners from multiple sectors and many different backgrounds into this new alliance. I believe that every partner that has signed up to the alliance so far brings something unique and relevant that can address the semiconductor skills and talent shortage, whether it’s their own education resources or specific expertise and capabilities. Here are just some of the initiatives already taking place through the new alliance.

Government bodies

Taiwan Semiconductor Research Institute (Taiwan)

As I mentioned at the start, the skills shortage is a global challenge. Since 2020, the Taiwan Semiconductor Research Institute (TSRI) has been redistributing Arm Academic Access IP to local universities and providing support. This has resulted in a reusable machine learning (ML) platform for academia, which will tape out this year. 

As an alliance member, TSRI plans to work with Arm and the Arm-based community of practice, known as SoC Labs, to facilitate global academic access to state-of-the art technologies and cloud-based design training services. We are working together with professors in Taiwan and the UK to develop a hands-on training course based on TSRI’s reusable ML platform and TSMC University FinFET Program. This will enable advanced integrated circuit (IC) design research in both the UK and Taiwan.

The All-India Council for Technical Education (India)

The All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) approves more than 9,000 institutions across the country, the majority of which teach courses of direct relevance to the scope of the alliance. AICTE is working with Arm and STMicroelectronics on a ‘Inventors Challenge 2023’, following large-scale and highly successful previous iterations. The Inventors Challenge provides faculty, postgraduate and undergraduate students industry-specific content and opportunities to practice with commercial tools, all themed around Sustainability and G20 Goals.

Industry associations

Semiconductor Research Corporation (US)

In the US, Arm has been working closely within the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) to develop the necessary semiconductor workforce, especially in the context of the recent US CHIPS Act. As part of the SRC’s workforce development Chapter, we have been working with colleagues from across the global semiconductor industry to understand the talent needs of the US industry in the future through developing models and frameworks that set out to plug the large projected skills gap.  

The Electronics Skills Foundation (UK)

In the UK, as an industry founding partner, Arm has been an active contributor to the UK Electronics Skills Foundation (UKESF). More recently, UKESF is supporting Arm’s development of an open, online course on microprocessors. Presented by young engineers at Arm, the course will support students who are looking to embark on a career in the semiconductor industry.

Leading technology companies

Arduino

Arduino is a key Arm partner in embedded and IoT markets. However, our partnership extends beyond the adoption of Arm’s technology and includes education programs and initiatives in schools and universities. We are working together to support teachers to embed computer engineering skills into classroom teaching through education resources. An area of collaboration between Arduino and Arm within the alliance is to scale up this support through the development of communities of practice. This will enable teachers to benefit from expert guidance, peer-to-peer support and the sharing of best practice for using physical computing devices within the computer science curriculum.

Cadence

Arm is collaborating with Cadence, a major EDA partner, to build out new very-large-scale integration (VLSI) design educational resources using state-of-the-art commercial tools and IP. This work has already resulted in a version of our VLSI Fundamentals Education Kit using current Cadence tools.

STMicroelectronics

Focusing specifically on embedded devices, we are working with STMicroelectronics who sponsor and support online courses around embedded systems, ML at the edge and IoT education and training. Through a global platform, we have already reached tens of thousands of learners in over 150 countries. The joint product roadmap of online content continues to develop and evolve in response to the KSA needs of the industry.

Synopsys

Another major EDA design partner in the alliance is Synopsys. The company is working on integrating its state-of-the-art EDA tools and VLSI design educational resources for both teachers and researchers. This will lower the barrier to entry for many project teams.

Academic and education institutions

Anglia Ruskin University (UK)

Arm Education has been supporting education and research activities at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in Cambridge, England, for many years. More recently, ARU and Arm have been collaborating on the design and development of validated online learning pathways to widen access to career opportunities in the semiconductor industry. Alongside strengthening the research partnership with Arm, ARU will use the alliance to develop online courses to tackle the skills gaps and increase diversity in important areas of technology, including AI.

Cornell University (US)

Through the alliance, the systems engineering department at Cornell University is currently creating a range of credit-bearing distance learning courses in cyber-physical systems, including embedded systems, IoT and robotics. As part of the Arm and alliance joint commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, the teaching materials for these courses will be made freely available to anyone worldwide via the Edu Labs platform.

Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Jodhpur (India)

As one of India’s Institutes of National Importance, IIT Jodhpur is committed to a multidisciplinary approach to technology development. The institute is a long-time user of curriculum-aligned Arm resources and has recently become a member of the alliance and Arm Academic Access, allowing the university to develop SoCs based on commercially proven IP.

University of Southampton (UK)

Arm has a longstanding relationship with the University of Southampton’s Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) Centre, with this partnership flourishing under the alliance. ECS hosts and curates the key Arm community of practice platforms for teachers and researchers, which are Edu Labs and SoC Labs, respectively. These initiatives allow universities to openly share resources and entire projects, which help to reduce development timescales and increase research impact.

Driving global skills and talent

Across all sectors and industries, the alliance includes education programs and initiatives that will support the drive to plug the global semiconductor skills gap. It is amazing to see the worlds of government, academia and technology come together to invest in greater access to education resources and expertise that will help unlock further investment and grow the semiconductor industry worldwide.

While challenges exist, the global innovation opportunities are enormous. I’m delighted that Arm is playing a central role in creating these opportunities and addressing key education challenges that will help build the next generation of semiconductor talent.

Learn more about education at Arm

Interested in joining the Semiconductor Education Alliance or learning more about Arm’s education resources?

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