Sat, Nov 15, 2003 - Page 10 News List

High-tech companies seek talent

NEW BLOOD The world's largest contract chipmaker along with several other companies are recruiting new staff to prepare for a predicted boom in demand

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), the world's largest contract chipmaker, yesterday launched a recruitment project to find 500 new employees by the end of this year, and another 3,000 people next year.

"The expansion in our workforce, mainly in the engineering and chip design divisions, is a preparation to increase production capacity due to a strong global demand for chips," TSMC public relations officer Jesse Chou (周志宏) said yesterday.

Worldwide computer-chip sales are expected to rise by 20 percent next year to US$210 billion, the highest level since 2000, the US-based market researcher Gartner Inc said in a statement on Wednesday.

A recovery in the chip industry is under way, Chou said, referring to an optimistic forecast last month by TSMC chairman Morris Chang (張忠謀), who upped his forecast for industry growth next year from 10 percent to 14 percent.

The continuing rejuvenation in the industry is already being reflected by the revenues of the nation's two biggest chipmakers. Over the three-month period ending on Sept. 30, TSMC's profits soared fivefold to NT$15.17 billion from NT$3.16 billion in the same period a year earlier, while its smaller rival United Microelectronics Corp (UMC, 聯電) tripled its profits to NT$4.2 billion from NT$1.4 billion over the same period last year.

For the first ten months of the year, Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park (新竹科學工業園區), the cradle of Taiwan's high-tech industry, reported NT$515.5 billion in sales, which represents a 14.72 percent increase from the same period last year, according to statistics provided by the park administration.

At the park, several high-tech companies are also hiring new staff. AU Optronics Corp (友達光電), ALi Corp (揚智科技), Etron Technology Inc (鈺創科技) and Elan Microelectronics Corp (義隆電子), for instance, jointly held a job fair last month. They hope to recruit nearly 1,000 integrated circuit (IC) designers by the end of the year.

But whether the pool of local high-tech talent is large enough to meet the industry's demand could pose a concern for companies.

Chou refused to comment on the issue, but welcomed the news that the government considers easing regulations on companies recruiting foreign workers and professionals.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs said on Thursday that it had decided to relax the qualification requirements for foreign professionals in 12 industries with immediate effect. These industries, categorized as "novel and strategic," include Internet services, advanced chip design, the innovation sector, intellectual property rights and electronic engineering.

Currently foreigners with a bachelor's degree are required to have two years of related work experience to be able to join the Taiwanese job market. Those with a master's degree only need one year of experience.

Local and foreign business groups such as the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) have been calling for a more liberal approach to the hiring of foreign workers in recent years, but the government was hesitant out of concern over the possible impact on domestic workers.

"From a business point of view, the interaction of talents from all over the world, including China, would be a bonus to industry development. But we still need to comply with government policy," Chou said.

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