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As the US launches a new program to combat its semiconductor workforce shortage, Europe faces a similar challenge in the broader tech sector. Recent data highlights a dramatic 300% increase in applications from aspiring technical founders between 2021 and 2023, with a notable 770% rise in those specializing in AI and data. Despite this influx, 75% of European employers reported difficulties finding workers with the right skills in 2023, up from 42% in 2018. This talent gap affects various industries, with the semiconductor sector alone facing a potential shortage of over 100,000 engineers. The situation shows the urgent need for skill development and workforce education to keep up with global competition.

America’s plan to plug the chip gap

In the US, the Biden administration has taken a proactive approach to tackle the semiconductor workforce shortage. The government introduced a workforce partner alliance, dedicating a portion of the $5 billion in federal funding to the National Semiconductor Technology Center (NSTC). The NSTC plans to fund up to ten workforce development projects, each with budgets ranging from $500,000 to $2 million. This initiative aims to ensure a steady stream of skilled workers to support domestic semiconductor production.

Europe: high demand, low supply

Europe’s tech landscape is booming, evidenced by the significant increase in technical founders. Between 2021 and 2023, we have seen a 300% rise in applications from these aspiring leaders, including a 770% spike in those specializing in AI and data. Despite this influx, meeting the demand for skilled tech workers remains a challenge.

A 2023 survey revealed that 75% of employers in 21 European countries had trouble finding workers with the right skills, a sharp increase from 42% in 2018. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are particularly struggling, with 54% reporting difficulties sourcing skilled employees. The ageing population and declining birth rates exacerbate the issue, creating a tight labor market that makes it tough to fill both existing and new job roles.

Semiconductors: the epicenter of the talent shortage

Talent shortages especially hit the semiconductor industry. Europe could be facing a deficit of over 100,000 engineers needed for the expanding semiconductor manufacturing sector. This problem isn’t confined to Europe; the US and Asia-Pacific regions, excluding China, are experiencing similar challenges. 

Addressing this skills gap is critical for maintaining competitiveness in the global market. Investment in education, training, and workforce development is essential. Innovative solutions and cross-border collaborations can help bridge the talent gap, ensuring the tech industry continues to thrive. By fostering a skilled workforce, both Europe and the US can navigate these challenges and sustain their positions as leaders in the global tech landscape. The talent shortage is a global issue with profound implications, and it’s a call to action for governments, industries, and educational institutions to work together to cultivate the next generation of tech innovators.

The Netherlands in particular, home to ASML, a global leader and major world supplier of semiconductor technology, must pay close attention to this issue. To maintain its position in the tech industry, continued investment in cultivating skilled professionals is vital.