By Ron Schneiderman / August 2015

Newswise — There are plenty of engineering jobs in the Asia-Pacific region, even shortages in several locations.

In some areas, like India and Australia, diversification into systems design and manufacturing have become part of these countries’ national growth strategies. Consequently, some companies are becoming more active in collaborating with local universities in helping train engineers in the skill sets they need, while some companies continue to pull in engineers from outside the region to meet their technical talent needs.

India, for one, is working to reduce its imports of electronics and become more of a force in technology globally. Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the tone for his government’s efforts to push for a more robust digital future for India in a speech during “Digital Week” in New Delhi in early July when he asked, “Why can't we make quality electronic goods that are globally competitive?”

India has created several so-called blended learning programs, including one organized by the VLSI Society of India and the IEEE, which are working together to fill the training gap through a mix of e-learning courses. “We are well placed in terms of raw talent, but there is a huge gap at the skill level because engineering graduates lack industry exposure to real-life projects,” said Jaswinder Ahuja, corporate vice president and managing director, Cadence Design Systems India, and president of the VLSI Society of India, in an interview in the Times of India.“We require engineers who are skilled in VLSI [very large scale integration] design and who can be productive as soon as they join the industry.” (To help prime the recruitment pump, Cadence has established a university program in electronic system design and manufacturing to train “readily employable” engineers.)

JUMP IN SOFTWARE START-UPSIndia has made some progress in meeting its goals. The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) is reporting an increase in the number of engineering graduates moving directly into manufacturing and a big jump in software product start-ups. NASSCOM says a detailed analysis of the country’s software product economy suggests not only robust growth in this sector, but a growing shift in the number of engineering school graduates from the services-led technology segment to a greater balance between services and product development. While the total number of software product start-ups in India stood at 3,100 in April, the NASSCOM study predicts “hyper growth” in the country’s start-up ecosystem, with a jump to 11,500 start-ups by 2020, and a huge increase in employment, rising from the current 75,000 to more than 250,000.

Asked in an interview on NASSCOM’s website when India will start seeing more products developed for local markets, Ahuja said there already are companies in India developing products such as solar-powered LED lanterns, digital inverters, and hand-held medical diagnostic equipment for semi-urban and rural customers. “Entrepreneurs are realizing the opportunities at the base of the pyramid. The tremendous market for these kinds of devices across developing economies worldwide will spur more companies to get into product development.”

NASSCOM, working with the Data Security Council of India, has also launched the NASSCOM Cyber Security Task Force to develop a skilled workforce to build and promote India as a global hub for security services and solutions. NASSCOM has also partnered with Envestnet India, a unit of Chicago-based Envestnet that provides wealth management technologies and services to investment advisors, to host a NASSCOM “architecting intelligence” (AI) conference for software architects. “The rapid rise of AI in a variety of industries presents many opportunities for IT professionals in India and other countries,” said R. Chandrashekhar, NASSCOM president. “As a technology leader, you need to be cognizant of, and adapt to, the need for ‘architecting intelligence’ to position yourself and the products you design squarely at the crossroads of this paradigm shift.”

Infopark Kerala, located in Kochi, has already attracted several major IT organizations, and expects to create 100,000 new software jobs by 2020. Companies currently located in the 100-acre site, including Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro, Affiliated Computer Services, OPI Global, IBS Software Services, and US Technology, have posted hundreds of jobs, mostly for software engineers. The site is expected to grow to 160 acres, with most of it dedicated to an IT special economic zone. (Infosys, which said last November that it would hire up to 300 management and technology graduates from leading United States universities, is now slowing its hiring. “Our focused employee engagement initiatives over the last few months have resulted in containing employee attrition to one of the lowest in recent times” says Vishal Sikka, the company’s CEO.)

HEAVY HIRINGMany industry companies in the region are also aggressively hiring engineers and IT professionals.

Infineon Technologies AG recently reported several openings in India (13 in engineering R&D, seven in engineering design), Singapore (31 openings in engineering applications and products, and 12 in engineering R&D), and Malaysia (15 openings in engineering R&D, three in engineering design, and 37 in IT).

Storage specialist SanDisk says it plans to double its staff in Bangalore (now formally known as Bengaluru in India) to 1,200 in the next three years from its current staff of 600, making it the company’s second largest R&D facility outside the United States. To fill these newly-opened slots, SanDisk is recruiting a range of engineering disciplines, including system designers.

Dell says it has at least 13 openings in Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Karnataka, India for software engineers that require specific skill sets.

Freescale Semiconductor is looking for three engineers in India— two Linux software specialists and an IP design engineer.

Flextronix, which officially changed its name to Flex in late July to better reflect its expanding product and services offerings, has a long list of job openings for engineers in several disciplines, most of them in China and Malaysia.

General Electric recently posted 40 EE-related positions in China, most of them in Beijing and Shanghai.

Analog Devices is recruiting communications infrastructure systems, power analog design, and quality engineers in Shanghai. (AD is also hiring in Seoul, Bangalore, and has several openings in Cavite, a province in the Philippines located on the southern shores of Manila Bay.)

Hewlett-Packard announced in May that it would sell a majority stake in its data-networking operation in China, but into June, it was still in the market for at least 20 system software engineers and software designers in Shanghai. HP was also looking for at least another 20 engineers with experience in systems and software and graduates from local university programs.

Taiwan is another engineering jobs hotspot, especially in Taipei. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, (TSMC) is looking for several EEs with design technology, process integration, test, research and development experience, and computer science/information backgrounds. Dell is hiring a spectrum of engineering talent in Taiwan (system, software development, test, RF/antenna, wireless communications Internet of Things engineers), with some emphasis on recruiting undergraduate engineering as interns and several opportunities for associate engineers coming out of Taiwan University.

Singapore Technologies Electronics Limited (ST Electronics) recently posted almost 300 jobs in most of its 11 key facilities throughout the Asia-Pacific. Its list of openings includes senior software engineers/quality, and system, security, procurement, and product engineers.

UL (Underwriters Laboratories) is opening a Global Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence in Singapore to create advanced training, material and process validation programs and research aimed at standards development in additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing. As of May, UL had hired two AM engineers based in Singapore, but Matt Pasha, UL's marketing manager for digital manufacturing technologies, says UL plans to hire more AM, material and process engineers. “There are significant knowledge gaps in 3D printing and AM,” says Pasha. “It is where we are developing a professional training curriculum. We seek trainers that have years of hands-on and practical experience within AM. We expect to find them from industry and academia.” The center is supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board.

Google recruitment ads are popping up in the middle of news items on the Internet: “Google Software Engineers— We’re Hiring Software Ninjas— Browse Openings and Apply Now.” Google has openings just about everywhere, with a push on now in Shanghai and Seoul for software engineers, often requiring special skill sets, like software engineer/Android (Seoul) and software engineer/test (Shanghai).

Google has also opened its first campus in Asia (in Seoul) to support Internet start-ups. The goal is to give the company more access to the Korean market where it competes with Naver, Korea’s leading search engine. Google says that one of the reasons it located on Seoul in the Asia-Pacific is the region’s large talent pool. (Google has similar operations in London and Israel.)

Google also is expanding the capacity of two data centers in Asia, in Taiwan in Singapore, both of which opened in 2013. Google offered few details about its plans in Taiwan, but said expansion of the Singapore center is scheduled for completion in two years. Google also said in May that it would build its biggest corporate campus outside the United States in Hyderabad, India, where it currently operates a leased facility, and will employ 13,000 people at the facility. Google expects the new facility to be fully operational by mid-2019.

Synopsys also is cranking up its profile in Taiwan, recently launching a collaborative program with National Taiwan University, National Cheng Kung University, National Tsing Hua University, and National Chiao Tung University to establish joint advanced design labs for Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Dr. Jyuo-Min Shyu. Taiwan’s Minister of Science and Technology, says the collaboration is expected to cultivate semiconductor design talent, “facilitating the development of Taiwan’s semiconductor industry by producing well-trained engineering and computer science professionals.” Synopsys is providing relevant programming source and lab materials, as well as faculty training.

INTEL INSIDEIntel, as it often does, has one of the longest lists of job openings in the Asia-Pacific, looking for more than 400 engineers and IT professionals in the region. The list gets longer if you add Intel's call for 140 student/interns with engineering backgrounds. A breakdown by country for these jobs: India (151), Malaysia (149), China (121), and Japan (4). Although Hong Kong and Australia usually feature in Intel’s jobs list, there weren’t any openings in these two locations in a recent posting.

At least half of the Intel jobs require software engineers, some with a specific focus (wearable systems software architect, RealSense software engineer). Skill sets most in demand by Intel China are firmware/BIOS and Linux kernel development, motherboard research and development, semiconductor engineering and manufacturing, silicon design, and system development. Key requirements by Intel Malaysia are architecture simulation and performance analysis, system-on-a-chip (SoC) design, system and component level validation, system and low-level software (drivers and BIOS), logic (mixed signal circuit design), and test development.

AUSTRALIA BECKONSAustralian companies and government agencies have had difficulties meeting their engineering requirements for some time. According to Engineers Australia, the number of graduating electrical, electronic and information and communications technologies (EEICT) engineers has been dropping steadily over the last few years. One factor that may have contributed to this decline is Australia’s so-called resources boom, with more engineering students interested in mining programs. With the demand for civil and mining engineers returning to normal levels, Engineers Australia says interest in EEICT appears to be growing, if only slowly.

“The engineering profession has gone from major skills shortages to major employment uncertainty in the space of a few short years,” says Stephen Durkin, CEO of Engineers Australia. “Without a transparent and coordinated commitment to infrastructure investment, this cycle will continue.”

“Interestingly,” says Durkin, “as EEICT university completions dropped, the issue of permanent visas for EEICT engineers increased, which may suggest that employers did struggle to secure required skills within Australia and looked overseas to fill the gaps. It remains to be seen whether permanent visas will continue to increase as domestic supply through university turns around.” (India-based Wipro Ltd. launched its first engineering and computer science graduate hiring program in Australia, a key Wipro market, to increase the local talent in Australia's workforce. Wipro Digital, the digital business unit of Wipro Ltd., is also expanding its capabilities in the product and services sectors wi th the recent acquisition of Designit, a design firm based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Designit employs more than 300 people in nine offices globally.)

As for actual hires, Boeing is currently recruiting several engineers in Australia. Boeing employs more than 3,000 people in Australia, and has several university partnerships in the country that help provide a pipeline of talent for new engineers. The company works closely with university engineering students on R&D projects, and while it hires these students, Boeing has brought its engineers from other locations to Australia for rotations or assignments —depending upon the business requirement.

New York-based Autotask Corp., which helps IT organizations worldwide manage their systems, plans to hire 10 to 20 tech professionals in 2016 in Sydney, mostly for systems implementation and product support. Josette Valenti, the company's vice president of human resources, says, “Currently, Autotask primarily targets local talent, but with tight labor markets, we have expanded our reach and hired from New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.”South Korea-based SK Telecom and Nokia Networks have opened a 5G R&D center at Nokia's South Korea office to enable researchers from both companies to develop core 5G technologies, including gigabit-level data transmission systems and cloud-based virtualized base stations. They also plan to open a test bed at the facility before the end of 2015 to verify and demonstrate 5G technologies. But it’s not clear at this point how the two companies will staff the operation.

Qualcomm affiliate Qualcomm Global Trading Pte, Ltd. has formed a new company, SMIC Advanced Technology Research & Development (Shanghai) Corp., an equity joint venture company, with Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., China's largest semiconductor foundry; Huawei, a leading communications technology company in the region, and imec [sic], a nanoelectronics R&D center, to build what they believe will be China's most advanced integrated circuit development R&D facility. Initially, the company plans to develop 14 nanometer CMOS technology for mass production. Qualcomm would not comment on the new organization's hiring plans.

About Ron SchneidermanRon Schneiderman is a contributing editor for IEEE Spectrum Online and i3 (It Is Innovation). He is also the author of several books, most recently “Modern Standardization: Case Studies at the Crossroads of Technology, Economics, and Politics,” published by John Wiley & Sons.