Europe views training as key to growth

Barbara Rott

EINDHOVEN, NETHERLANDS—With electronic business booming in Europe, companies are going to great lengths to find, hire and train qualified, technically savvy cleanroom workers.

The latest example is JDS Uniphase, a global electro-optic company with locations throughout Europe. In order to side-step the current drought, JDS decided to take matters in its own hands by developing an aggressive new program to prepare staff for manufacturing positions in its new assembly plant near Plymouth, England.

“With the help of Adecco Recruitment, we're trying to find candidates with previous manufacturing and cleanroom experience in the Plymouth area to fill up the 180 vacancies that our Plymouth factory will initially create,” says Grant Rogers, director of strategic business development for JDS Uniphase, Europe. The recruits are then sent to JDS' facility in Eindhoven for several months of extensive training. The company pays for the trip, travel and accommodations for the trainees.

According to Grant, internal training programs have become indispensable. “To get the best results, we utilize experienced staff to equip the new workers with the necessary skills. Where the equipment in the fabs is standard, we asked the manufacturers to train them.”

In such a booming global economy, it's becoming clear that building long-term relationships between employers and workers is the new winning formula for success, says Thomas DudenhÖffer, chief human resources director of the German semiconductor company Infineon.

In addition to Infineon's current recruitment drive, the company has placed a strong focus on securing future recruiting needs through a number of training programs, such as the company's “Vocational Training Program for the Micro-Technologist,” which was established in 1998.

“The three years of study alternates between university classes and practical training,” says DudenhÖffer. “Several of the courses take place in Infineon's special training cleanrooms where the upcoming specialists can process wafers on their own.”

Infineon currently has 102 apprentices training at production sites in Regensburg, Dresden and Munich.

“There is a shortage at all levels in the labor market for qualified cleanroom workers,” says Erik Daenen, vice president of human resources at IMEC, an independent research center for the development and licensing of microelectronics and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) with more than 950 employees.

“The strong upturn in semiconductor consumption and the more than 30-percent increase forecast for 2000 were the reasons for these training programs, directed toward new semiconductor industry professionals and experienced engineers,” says Daenen.

According to Daenen, making recruiting and training top priority are only two possible ways to manage the problem. An attractive work environment must be combined with opportunities for learning and career growth. Working within socially acceptable shift systems is another factor.

ST Microelectronics has decided that education on a “university” level is the best way to build talent from outside as well as inside the company. ST offers a “Masters of Microelectronics” at ST University (STU), a “university” technical training program the company has developed for its employees.

“One of our tasks is to work with universities, research labs and engineering schools to make training and education as close as possible to industry needs,” says Gérard Stéhelin, corporate program manager of STU.

According to Stéhelin, STU is a network of more than 250 associate trainers that have been established in the company to develop the different programs of STU. These programs match the strategic goals of ST and cover all the steps in the business—from initial design to final products.

It has been difficult finding qualified people due to the current market situation, says Stéhelin, but not as tough as it could have been. “The company has been paying a lot of attention to the training of cleanroom workers in the past,” he says. “For operators, we have developed, together with local employment authorities [for example in the French fabs Rousset and Crolles], a specific recruitment training program.”

Good times have forced semiconductor manufacturers to address the training element in their overall business mission. Internal training experts for some time have been trying to show top management how the fruits of their labor reflect on the all-important bottom line. According to Tony Waring, chief executive officer of Micron Training International, a multimedia publisher of training materials, there's no time like the present.

“It's now noticeable that those companies that recognize training to be an opportunity to improve performance are also successful financially,” says Waring. “They have also recognized that without motivation no training program really works.”


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