Abg Jo: MoU for talent development in semiconductors, chip design new milestone for Sarawak

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Abang Johari (centre) is seen during a photo call after the MoU signing ceremony. From sixth left are Sagah and Deputy Ministers for Education, Innovation and Talent Development Datuk Dr Annuar Rapaee and Datuk Francis Harden Hollis. – Ukas photo

KUCHING (June 14): The signing of the ‘Sarawak Digital Economy Transformation: Talent Development in Semiconductors & Chip Design’ memorandum of understanding (MoU) is a new milestone for the state in building up local talents to participate in the high-tech industry, said Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said the MoU will see the Ministry of Education, Innovation and Talent Development (MEITD) through Sarawak Microelectronics Design (SMD) Semiconductor collaborating with the Centre for Technology Excellence Sarawak (Centexs), Sarawak Skills, Melexis from Belgium, X-Fab (Sarawak) from Germany, Synopsys and Cadence from the Silicon Valley, United States of America.

He pointed out the MoU, which marked the starting point to establish Sarawak as one of the leading integrated circuit (IC) design hubs in this region, seeks to develop human capital and foster local talent in the field of semiconductors and chip design.

“I understand we need about 500 chip designers in order to be employed in this high-tech industry.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank our partners be they in Belgium, Germany, as well as Silicon Valley for coming over and to be our partner in this exciting period of transition of economy,” he said when witnessing the signing of the MoU at Wisma Bapa Malaysia here today.

Abang Johari said new chip design is needed and very important with the automotive industry’s ongoing transformation from fossil fuels to electric vehicles (EV) and even hydrogen vehicles.

He also said new chips will be needed in other sectors such as maritime and health due to the shift to green and renewable energy.

“This MoU also showcases the team spirit for us to train young Sarawakians in particular, and Malaysians in general, with the right knowledge and skills to meet the new economy, particularly renewable energy and the products that come out of this green energy,” he added.

The Premier said Sarawak needs to prepare a comprehensive ecosystem by developing human capital and fostering talent development.

“All these initiatives are aligned with the Sarawak’s Post Covid-19 Development Strategy (PCDS) 2030 strategic objective to further boost our gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the manufacturing sector through human capital development that will contribute to the Sarawak economy by 2030,” he added.

In a statement, SMD Semiconductor said MEITD will launch the ‘Sarawak Digital Economy Transformation: Talent Development in Semiconductors & Chip Design’ programme in September with the first pilot project ‘Train-the-Trainers’ scheduled to commence in the same month.

The programme aims to train 44 graduates in IC design annually, 44 graduates in wafer fabrication, 10 graduates in wafer testing, and eventually select five candidates for master’s degree or PhD programmes.

The target includes hiring 220 IC design graduates, 220 wafer fabrication graduates, and 50 wafer test engineers within five years, as well as having 10 master’s or PhD graduates joining the engineering workforce in IC Design.

Four courses will be offered namely IC Design, IC Layout, Wafer Testing, and Wafer Fabrication.

SMD Semiconductor said graduates will have the opportunity to fill high-value job vacancies in semiconductors and IC design, which means a guaranteed job placement.

In the same statement, Education, Innovation and Talent Development Datuk Roland Sagah Wee Inn said the programme is an enabler that will lay the foundation for Sarawak to leapfrog into the second phase of PCDS 2030 development.

“This will make Sarawak the top-of-the mind semiconductor investment destination and solution provider in the world.

“I am proud that SMD Semiconductor has been one of the active Government Link Companies (GLCs) in Sarawak under the purview of MEITD, in connecting Sarawak’s skills institutions with the professionals and expert industry players from the global market,” he said.

As such, he said Sarawak welcomes industry players from outside the country to expand their businesses here, as it provides economic opportunities and has a positive impact on areas such as R&D, innovation, and talent.

“Furthermore, generating a high-skilled talent pool through collaboration with established education institutes is crucial. This ensures that students and graduates are guided and driven by industry demand and requirements,” he added.

According to Sagah, semiconductors, classified under the manufacturing sector, is among the six sectors outlined in the State Talent Development Masterplan.

“I am also proud that semiconductors and chip design, under the manufacturing sector, will also play a part in preparing Sarawak for 200,000 high-paying jobs out of a total employment of 1.5 million by 2030, as stated in the PCDS 2030 blueprint,” he said.

SMD CEO Shariman Jamil said the efforts made by SMD Semiconductor and its partners will prepare an experienced workforce and ensure a good talent supply from universities.

“This is why SMD Semiconductor, with the support from the state government through MEITD, together with our partners, actively engages with local universities and training institutions to develop an industry-proof syllabus and training content.

“Additionally, we expose the students to the right Electronic Design Automation (EDA) tools and software at the university to ensure they are ready and up to speed when they enter the industry,” he said.