Amid the changes in the global industrial environment, Taiwan's role as a provider of original equipment manufacturing/original design manufacturing (OEM/ODM) services for various technological sectors has gradually decreased. The nation is now moving toward an innovative, knowledge-based industry to become a production base for cutting-edge research and development, as well as high value-added products.
To achieve this goal, quality and skilled workers are needed. However, there is a shortage of university and junior college graduates to meet the need for research developers and technicians at the companies in the Hsinchu Science Park. This lack exposes a vital problem in the local education system.
The demand for college and post-graduate employees exceeds the supply from National Taiwan University, Tsing Hua, Chiao Tung and Chen Kung universities, as companies place greater emphasis on original research and development (R&D) to maintain their competitive edge.
Tsing Hua and Chiao Tung universities recently reinforced their international graduate research programs to attract outstanding international students. These students receive scholarships from certain corporations who employ them after graduation.
This scheme has earned the support of several organizations at the science park, highlighting the acute demand for quality R&D staff.
A major cause of the shortage of technicians is the upgrading of junior colleges into technical universities or institutes in the past 10 years, resulting in an insufficient supply of junior college graduates to fill the demand.
Graduates of technical universities and institutes are unwilling to fill the slack, as they think this a post for junior college graduates. However, many of these technical institute graduates are stuck in limbo as they are unqualified to seek higher-level job positions.
There seems to be a misconception that the nation's science parks require more researchers and developers than technicians. The reality is that they complement each other: The close alliance between R&D and manufacturing is critical to the success of local science parks.
At present, many senior-level technicians at the Hsinchu Science Park are foreign employees from Southeast Asia. If local corporations continue to face a long-term dearth in human resources, some may be forced to relocate to Southeast Asia or China, where supply is abundant. The government should give careful consideration to these issues.
Huan Teh-jui is the director of the Hsinchu Science Park Administration.
Translated by Angela Hong