The Next Generation of Semiconductor Professionals
As a semiconductor veteran of more than twenty five years and a proud mother of a 15 year old boy finishing his secondary school, this year has been full of life changing decisions whilst supporting my son, Thomas, to choose his A level options and helping him forge his future academic and professional path.
It was back in January this year when Thomas asked me if a career in the semiconductors or software world would be something he should be contemplating at this early stage. This question was one I sincerely had to give some thought to as subjects such as computing or engineering are not available to him at his current school. I realised then, that in order to answer his question as an insider to the industry, I would need to do a little bit of research. I took the time to speak to some of my son’s peers, and one particular case surprised and somewhat alarmed me the most.
My son’s best friend Ben, an outstanding academic child has always been an over achiever and very inquisitive child with a thirst for learning and developing new skills in the IT and engineering field.
At the tender age of 12 he started to create basic HTML and CSS websites on his parent’s computers until he could afford his own computer. He went on to build a budget PC which enabled him to do more programming and have larger projects. From this point on he started to self-teach new languages such as C++ and Java. He moved into basic game development using the Unity engine and he created games to play with his friends, this was all before his 14th birthday. He carried on using this passion to develop new skills and successfully learnt to render in 3D which enabled him to attempt his first public website, aimed at his peer group, called ForumTeen .
Unfortunately, and here lies my biggest issue, Ben is now facing a huge dilemma in choosing his 6th form school. Obviously, he has the desire to study Computer Science at degree level, for which he has strongly been recommended to study Computing and Maths as his core subjects. Again, at his current school where he has excelled and matured, they do not offer Computer Science and their ICT department is under-resourced although there is an outstanding Maths pass rate.
In order to follow his dream, Ben will be forced to move school, away from his friends and teachers he knows and trusts making him slightly anxious and somehow angry at the system. As it stands, he has only two viable options. There are two 6th form schools that would support his preferred studies; one which means a daily 3 hours commute with an outstanding 99% pass rate on both Computing and Maths or a more local option which offers good Maths results but very average Computing performance.
This fills me with worry. Surely in this day and age, we have the duty to offer these young students a good 6th form programme with a broad choice of subjects, supporting all technology related studies. We cannot nor should we lose any of these young prospects, these talented people who at this early stage in the process could suffer simply because of travel logistics or pass rate tables.
Unless something changes there will be, in my view, a shortage and a skills gap in the software or engineering field because young and talented kids like Ben will slip through the net.
Perhaps, the industry itself should apply some pressure and pledge some money to the education system to ensure this New Generation of semiconductor professionals, designers and engineers are supported from the early start of their academic path.