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King's College and Arm wrestle with UK's semiconductor skills shortage

The Engineering Department of King's College London has teamed up with chip designer Arm to get more students into chips.

Nick Wood

December 8, 2023

3 Min Read

Following on from the August launch of the Semiconductor Education Alliance, Arm has helped King's shape the curriculum for its new Masters degree in Semiconductor Industry. Set in new semiconductor education labs, modules focus specifically on semiconductor technology and are delivered by specially-recruited experts spanning academia and industry.

"It is vital for the UK to be able to compete on the world stage in this critical field, but to do that we need to empower the next generation of engineers and practitioners," said Dr Tayebeh Mousavi, lecturer in engineering at King's Department of Engineering.

"At present, when engineers leave university, they must be significantly upskilled when they enter industry for the first time as they learn to adapt to a fast-changing field," she said.

"Universities and business need to come together to equip students with the right skillset and the right knowledge to make an impact from day one. By offering a hands-on curriculum built in partnership with leading industry forces like Arm in new bespoke semiconductor labs, we can go beyond theoretical knowledge to the practical skills that will meet the expectations of future employers."

A lack of skills among the workforce was one of the major challenges identified in a March report by the Institute of Physics (IOP) and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng).

"The sector, both in industry and academia, is experiencing problems accessing the skills it needs in a range of areas," the report said.

There is shortage at all levels of education, from pre-degree physics skills through to electrical engineering. There is also a shortage of specialist teachers and barriers to access to education from underrepresented and underserved groups.

"Removing these barriers and breaking down the stereotypes that put many young people off science from an early age is a vital part of this," the report said.

A couple of months after the report was published, the UK government raised the stakes with its £1 billion National Semiconductor Strategy, a 10-year plan to stimulate research and development, improve access to infrastructure, and facilitate greater international cooperation in an effort to make the UK more competitive.

The strategy aims to leverage the UK's strengths in research and academia, but judging by this announcement from King's and Arm, there's work that needs doing on this front.

In addition to the new Masters degree, Arm will also offer a series of online courses aimed at international students. Created and accredited by King's and delivered by online education platforms, they will provide certification for people seeking to learn new, semiconductor-related skills.

"We all recognise the semiconductor industry's global strategic importance, but the availability of the right skills in the existing workforce could be a significant barrier to future growth and innovation," said Khaled Benkrid, senior director of education and research at Arm. "Through the Semiconductor Education Alliance and partnerships such as this one with King's, we are building new levels of collaboration and scalable solutions that not only address the skills gap, but also put the UK at the centre of a vibrant technology ecosystem."

About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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