Mon, May 08, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Technology companies scramble to recruit engineers

SHORTAGE Competition from firms in China is contributing to a lack of engineers in Taiwan, and companies here are turning to overseas Taiwanese to help fill the gap

By Jason Tan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Jack Lai (賴敏哲), a 36-year-old software developer working for Bloomberg LP in New York, had a job interview with local consumer IC design house Princeton Technology Corp (普誠科技) last Wednesday morning.

But instead of flying to Taipei, he stayed in the US, and the 30-minute session took place via computer at a special recruitment pavilion set up at SemiTech Taipei 2006.

The semiconductor exposition had set up the recruitment pavilion to help technology firms contact prospective employees, enabling firms like Princeton Technology to turn to overseas Taiwanese to fill vacancies.

"Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the US government has been tough on immigrants. I have applied for a green card for the past six years, but was told my application has been left untouched," Lai told the Taipei Times shortly after his interview.

After seven years in New York, including one year spent obtaining a masters degree from New York University, he has decided it is time to come home.

"With my international exposure, I think this will be a plus on my job application in Taiwan," he said, his voice coming through the speakers on a slight delay.

People living overseas who have work experience -- especially those in the US and UK -- are being sought by domestic technology firms, which have been facing engineer shortages in recent years.

Statistics from the Industrial Economics and Knowledge Center suggest that from last year to next year the nation's technology sector will be short 20,000 research and development engineers.

The semiconductor field will need around 5,000 extra engineers even if the sector's growth remains flat during the three-year period, it said.

Monica Chiu (邱文仁), marketing director of 104 Job Bank (104人力銀行) -- the nation's largest human resources agency -- has seen large-scale recruitment by its high-tech clients, especially since 2004.

"More companies started to introduce new services and products after the economy picked up in 2004, and the high-tech sector has been in need of extra manpower," she said.

The problem is not that the educational sector has been unable to produce enough graduates, but that vendors have found it hard to locate candidates with the qualities to fit industry needs, Chiu said.

Princeton Technology's experience attests to this.

"We were having a tough time hiring qualified engineers and, starting last year, we lowered our requirements from seeking only those with masters degrees and related experience, to fresh graduates," said Jay Yeh (葉楚璿), a Princeton Technology personnel specialist who interviewed Lai.

The Sindian-based company also faces competition for staff from big names such as United Microelectronics Corp (UMC, 聯電) and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), as engineers prefer to work for these firms, which are located in the Hsinchu Science Park, Yeh said.

Set up in 1980, the park is the nation's largest research and development (R&D) base with more than 40,000 engineers, who are dubbed the "high-tech elite."

The race to find workers is set to heat up this year, as TSMC will hire 1,600 engineers, and Powerchip Semiconductor Corp (力晶半導體) is set to employ another 600.

Chipmaker Inotera Memories Inc (華亞科技) has openings for 500 R&D staff, and more might be needed, according to a human resources manager who asked not to be named.

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