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A guide to semiconductor industry & Future paths for Vietnamese students


Vietnam and the United States shared the same view on Vietnam’s potential to become a key player in the global semiconductor industry in a meeting on the Strategic Partnership in late September 2023. In addition, both highlight their support in the rapid development of the semiconductor ecosystem in Vietnam.

In reality, semiconductor materials are the world’s fourth most traded product and are considered the “nucleus” of the modern electronics industry. Vietnam is also part of this race as starting in 2024, Vietnam has considered the semiconductor industry as one of its national priority sectors and has implemented a number of regulations designed to encourage rapid growth.

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This showcases an opportunity for Vietnamese students and engineers to grasp trends and “step” into the multi-billion-dollar semiconductor industry, where earnings can top 1.5 billion VND annually. Let’s delve further into the semiconductor industry and its potentials.

Overview of the Semiconductor Industry

The role of semiconductors is becoming more and more important as a result of the spectacular development of the digital technology landscape. Modern electronics cannot function without semiconductor components since they are a necessary part of any tech product. Put another way, the semiconductor industry as a whole and semiconductor chips specifically are improving the modernity, convenience, and quality of our lives. Now, describe the semiconductor business in more detail.

The remarkable development of the digital technology landscape has highlight the significant role of semiconductors as an essential component in every tech product, modern electronics. In other words, the semiconductor industry in general, and semiconductor chips in particular, are driving the development of our modern, convenient lives. So, what exactly is the semiconductor industry?

  • The General Concept of the Semiconductor Industry

In simple terms, a semiconductor is a substance that can conduct electricity at a level in between that of an insulator and a conductor is known as a semiconductor. This characteristic of semiconductors, which is extensively used in high technology, electronics, digital technology, etc., allows them to regulate the flow of current between various components.

In modern life, we can encounter semiconductor industry products (semiconductor components) everywhere, in the form of semiconductor chips, found inside smartphones, laptops, electric cars, medical devices, etc. Integrated circuits (ICs), logic devices, and memory chips are the three primary categories of semiconductor chips. Every kind of chip has unique features and applications. In an electronic device like a smartphone, there can be up to dozens of semiconductor components inside it.

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Due to its exceptional adaptability and high applicability, the semiconductor industry is expected to grow rapidly in the near future. This is because it can meet the growing demand for semiconductor materials in emerging technologies such as 5G, AI, autonomous vehicles, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Furthermore, since the demand for electric cars drives the trend towards a sustainable future, with electronic devices and semiconductors playing vital roles as important components, future sustainable trends also present enormous prospects for the semiconductor sector.

Getting into the semiconductor industry, we must first understand the “Semiconductor Supply Chain” – a network of independent companies involved in the semiconductor chip production process, including design, fabrication, testing, packaging, and distribution. The supply chain has a strict and complex process, requiring close coordination between stages and firms to ensure accuracy, high efficiency, and the completion of the process from finding component/ material suppliers to selling to end consumers.

Stage 1: Integrated Circuit Design – is the process of developing integrated circuits on a semiconductor chip, accounting for 50-60% of the finished chip’s value. In this stage, engineers systematically select electronic elements that, when connected together, can perform expected functions as demanded. The circuit is designed to prioritize using the least number of elements possible at a reasonable cost, with minimal size, high reliability, and stability under various environmental conditions. FPT Semiconductor is responsible for the initial phase of the chip supply chain, creating the design, “the soul” of the chip.

Stage 2: Chip Fabrication – Converts the chip design into a tangible chip product that can be held, touched, and seen. The chip fabrication step begins with wafer production (also known as a silicon semiconductor wafer) serves as a “container” for etching the chip design. The fabrication process includes steps such as Wafer preparation, Surface processing, Oxidation, Diffusion, Photolithography, Ion implantation, Etching, Wafer cleaning, Parameter testing, Wire bonding, Chip attachment to the base.

Stage 3: Packaging – Following the manufacturing process in stage 2, the chips are stacked and assembled into packages that can be mounted on circuit boards. Then, they must undergo testing and evaluation under different electrical and temperature conditions before being integrated (assembled) into final products.

Stage 4: Integration & Consumption – After packaging, chip manufacturers integrate chips into electronic circuits as final products for consumers. The final products are then delivered to companies, retailers, and consumers worldwide for various uses, completing the final stage of the chip supply chain.

>> Read more about Semiconductor Supply Chain HERE

Despite being only a few square millimeters in size, the integrated circuit requires a challenging semiconductor supply chain procedure to ensure high accuracy, feasibility, and practicality before being delivered to end users.

Vietnam and the Global Semiconductor Industry Context

  • Growth Potential of the Semiconductor Industry

The history of the Industrial Revolution began with the steam engine in the 18th century, followed by the internal combustion engine and the explosive use of electricity in the 19th century, semiconductor technology emerging in the 1960s of the 20th century, and for today, it is predicted to be AI (artificial intelligence). Thus, till now, semiconductors remain the primary factor that drives humanity’s advanced development.

According to recent report of The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) on March 4, 2024, the global semiconductor industry revenue in January 2024 was $47.6 billion, up 15.2% from January 2023’s total revenue of $41.3 billion, yet down 2.1% from December 2023’s total of $48.7 billion.

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As stated by SIA President and CEO John Neuffer: “The global semiconductor market started the new year strong, with worldwide sales increasing at the highest rate since May 2022.” “Market growth is expected to continue for the rest of the year, with annual revenue forecasted to increase by double digits in 2024 compared to 2023.”

In Vietnam, Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung has also shared that 2024 will be the first year to implement the national strategy for the semiconductor industry development. Not only is it a fundamental sector, but it will also be a crucial national industry in the next 30 to 50 years.

This strategy is also supported by the global semiconductor industry, leveraging Vietnam’s STEM advantages (high capabilities in mathematics, engineering, technology, and science), stable political environment, abundant natural resources, and notably, since the outbreak of the US-China trade and semiconductor conflict, Vietnam has become a “promising land” attracting FDI with ambitions to become the next global semiconductor foundry.

  • The talent personnel shortage in semiconductor sector

Given the strong growth, especially the sudden recovery after the 2020 pandemic and chip crisis, the semiconductor industry urgently needs more skilled workers to meet market demand. It is forecasted that by 2030, over a million skilled workers may be needed to meet industry needs. Furthermore, the semiconductor industry is characterized by long lead times and high capital investment. Production capacity constraints and changes in demand have led to supply chain shortages. These factors are predicted to challenge market growth in the coming years.

Following the semiconductor industry’s rapid expansion, especially after the swift recovery from the 2020 pandemic and chip crisis, more trained personnel are urgently required to meet market demand. It is estimated that by 2030, the market will meet a shortage of over a million skilled personnel to meet industry demands. Furthermore, the semiconductor business is known for long lead times and high capital investment. Production capacity constraints and changes in demand have led to supply chain shortages. These factors are predicted to challenge market growth in the coming years.

According to the Labor Forecast and Development Center, Vietnam currently only meets 20% of labor demand and will require over 500,000 high-quality semiconductor workers by 2030. The United States predicts a shortage of 70,000 – 90,000 semiconductor workers, and semiconductor workforce demand in Japan has increased thirteenfold over the last decade.

This demonstrates that a highly skilled workforce is the “backbone” of semiconductor industry development, the factor that makes up the success in this sector, yet the “scarce” high-quality workforce is an emerging issue for both Vietnam and the international market.

Opportunities for Vietnamese students and engineers to enter the billion-dollar semiconductor market

  • Vietnamese engineers’ position in the global technology “arena”:

Vietnamese engineers, in particular, and the Vietnamese workforce, in general, often receive praise from major global enterprises. “High skills – Professional work attitude – Excellent practical experience, qualified to deliver most advanced semiconductor manufacturing techniques” – shared by Mr. Nguyen Phuc Vinh, who has nearly 20 years of experience in the semiconductor industry. Or “Enthusiastic – Eager to learn – Diligent” – said Mr. Robert Li, Vice President of Synopsys (USA) in the Taiwan (China) and South Asia region, regarding the team of Vietnamese semiconductor engineers. He also mentioned that Synopsys is willing to continue developing the team to its full potential. “Infineon is also aiming to expand its workforce in Vietnam, with hundreds of specialized engineers” – shared by Mr. Chua Chee Seong, President in the Asia-Pacific region of Infineon (a leading semiconductor manufacturer in Europe) with Nikkei Asia.

Recently, Vietnam has also witnessed an increasing number of major semiconductor corporations worldwide pouring investment in Vietnam, including leading U.S. firms such as Intel and Synopsys, South Korean conglomerate Amkor, and Europe’s Infineon. This shows a “golden” opportunity for Vietnamese chip designers to “step onto the international stage”, affirm their talent, continue enhancing their professional expertise, and make a mark on the global semiconductor map

  • Wide-open career opportunities for Vietnamese students and chip designers

If before 2023, the semiconductor training market had nothing outstanding, then from 2023 to now, the landscape has become more vibrant and received more attention. Prestigious universities, educational organizations, and reputable semiconductor companies have held numerous training courses from basic to advanced, ready to provide high-quality manpower for the domestic and international semiconductor industry.

Therefore, it creates job opportunities for chip design engineers to develop according to their own specialties and skills:

VLSI Design Engineer: Conceptualize and create the circuits that power electronic devices. Designing, simulating, and testing the functionality and performance of ICs while adhering to power, area, and speed constraints.

Verification Engineer: Test and debug to ensure that the designed ICs function correctly. Create test benches, develop test scenarios, use simulation tools to verify the functionality, performance, and reliability of the chips.

Physical Design Engineer: Translate the logical design into a physical layout that can be fabricated. Floor planning, placement, routing, and timing closure to ensure that the chip meets the desired performance outcome.

Analog/Mixed-Signal Designer: Focus on designing the Analog Portions of integrated circuits, such as amplifiers, filters, and voltage regulators that interact seamlessly with digital components in mixed-signal ICs.

System-on-Chip (SoC) Architect: Design and define the overall system architecture for complex chips that integrate multiple functions and components. Make critical decisions about the chip’s high-level structure (CPU selection, memory hierarchy, and interface protocols)

According to a survey by HSIA (Ho Chi Minh City Semiconductor Technology Association) and the Vietnamese Chip Community, the income level of semiconductor graduates can reach 200 million VND/year, and this figure can go up to over 1.5 billion VND/year for experienced engineers.

  • What should Vietnamese students/engineers do to seize this promising career opportunity?

This is the golden opportunity for Vietnamese chip engineers to seize opportunities, invest in deepening their knowledge and skills to adapt to increasingly high recruitment requirements. Chip design is predicted to be a potential field and will be the top choice for technology engineers in the next 10-15 years.

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Currently, new training and cross-profession training are two training approaches “paths” to promote human resources for the semiconductor industry.

On one hand, many universities and education organizations are proactively updating their curriculum, collaborating with leading technology enterprises to help students grasp the latest knowledge and upgrade skills through practical applications.

In 2023, pioneering universities in technology education such as FPT University, Posts and Telecommunications Institute of Technology (PTIT), Vietnam-Korea University of Information and Communication Technology (VKU), Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, University of Science, and University of Information Technology (Ho Chi Minh City National University) have rapidly developed and announced admissions for semiconductor chip design training programs at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

On the other hand, for technology engineers seeking to venture into the semiconductor field, cross-profession training is a challenging yet promising option. Leading universities today, in addition to offering regular official programs, collaborate with reputable organizations to launch short-term training courses in chip design. This assists technology engineers who are passionate about microchip technology to expand their skills, seizing broader career opportunities in the highly potential semiconductor industry.

Apart from learning theoretical knowledge, actively seeking further information, industry knowledge on the Internet, and seeking internship opportunities at domestic semiconductor companies also assist students in preparing a full skill set to step into this potential semiconductor industry.

FPT Semiconductor – A key player contributing to the development of Vietnam’s semiconductor industry

FPT Semiconductor – A member of FPT Group, is the first Vietnamese semiconductor firm to export Vietnamese chips to the international market. In Vietnam, FPT Semiconductor is also the first semiconductor company to successfully design power management chips (PMIC).

After a 10-year journey since the birth of the Vietnamese chip dream in 2014, FPT Semiconductor has achieved certain successes and gained the trust of the government.

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Although officially established only in March 2022, in just over a year, FPT Semiconductor has brought 8 chip products designed by Vietnamese to the market, serving a wide range of fields, from technology, telecommunications, IoT, lighting, smart devices, automotive technology, energy to electronics, and refrigeration sectors.

Not only does FPT Semiconductor provide quality products “make in Vietnam made by FPT” to domestic and international markets, but it also fulfill the mission of providing learning opportunities, semiconductor industry internships for young potential engineers, to provide knowledge, and a professional environment, thereby improving the quality of semiconductor manpower in the near future.

At the beginning of 2024, FPT Semiconductor along with the National Innovation Center (NIC), Tresemi Education Organization, and leading technology universities in the country successfully held chip design training courses for students in Hanoi, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City. Not only making significant contributions to the revenue of Vietnam’s semiconductor industry, FPT Semiconductor also focuses on training and nurturing sustainable young resources for the future.