Component industry faces a shrinking workforce

Both the United States and the European Union are facing significant shortages of skilled workers in the semiconductor and electronic components industry.

The situation is so severe that the president of a major electronics industry trade group called the skilled worker shortage the industry’s “top concern.”

Skilled Labor Particularly Difficult to Find

The electronics components sector has faced shrinking non-technical employment over the past two decades largely because of automation. In this historical context, a shrinking workforce is nothing new to the field.

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Most of the positions in the semiconductors industry are support roles that don’t require non-technical skill sets. The high proportion of unskilled workers in components companies is due to the rise of services-based output from tech companies.

Despite that shift, the employment shortage currently faced by the industry is not for these non-technical employees. Instead, the field is in need of technically skilled workers.

Analyzing the Problem

IPC, the Association Connecting Electronics Industries, is a components sector standards group that has operated for 65 years. As such, its leaders understand it has a clear understanding of the sector’s trends and patterns.

IPC President and CEO John Mitchell explained how the shortage came into being.

“With unemployment in many countries near record lows, market conditions are surely a factor,” Mitchell told EPSnews last week. “At the same time, electronics manufacturers are requiring ever-greater skillsets as the industry moves to advanced manufacturing.”

To analyze the problem in depth, IPC commissioned Oxford Economics to create a report dissecting the EU skilled employment shortage.

Oxford Economics most significant projection was that electronics sector employment in EU28 countries will continue to be low for the next five years. Moreover, it found that electronics manufacturing jobs pay less than similar positions in other fields.

The report’s authors took care to factor relevant global occurrences, such as ongoing Brexit negotiations between the United Kingdom and the EU, into their findings.

The report called for “further research” into the skilled labor problem and the need for more “qualitative insights from employers to help interpret the trends shown in the data.” Logically, the IPC would play an essential role in gathering this important data.

Sadly, the quantitative analysis company had no solutions to offer in the near term.

Mitchell called the tech sector’s talent sourcing problem and ever-evolving technical needs “some of the most difficult challenges facing the electronics industry in Europe and worldwide.”

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