Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. has hired its first batch of employees that will end up at its forthcoming Arizona factory.
Last year TSMC picked Arizona as its first U.S.-built factory (or fab) and it recently finished its first round of hiring, bringing in more than 250 new employees from across the U.S.
These people will end up working in human resources and fab operations, including engineers and technical specialists, and approximately 20% of the new hires have degrees from an Arizona university.
Rick Cassidy, CEO of TSMC Arizona, is leading the operation and in a statement he expressed his excitement at hitting the hiring milestone.
“We’ve already hired more than 250 stellar engineers and have entrusted them to our most advanced fab so they can bring up these industry-leading technologies to the United States. I’m delighted to welcome our first class of TSMC Arizona employees and look forward to working alongside them to help customers enable the technologies that will change our world.”
The company is expected to spend at least $12 billion from 2021 to 2029 on the new semiconductor factory, or fab, be built on 1,128 acres of land in north Phoenix.
The TSMC plant is expected by 2024 to produce 5 nanometer computer chips. This measurement refers to the length of the transistor gate on the surface of the chip and the nanometer is incredibly small; A human hair is about 90,000 nm wide and fingernails grow about 1 nm every second.
The tighter these transistors can be packed together, the more functional the chips become. And complex technologies like machine learning, autonomous vehicles and quantum computing all rely on advanced semiconductors.
The majority of TSMC’s fabs are in Taiwan, with additional production in China. TSMC also owns WaferTech LLC in Washington, which it acquired in 2000.
Since the Arizona fab will be the first facility that TSMC builds in the states, 100 of the new employees have moved to Taiwan for training.
They have specifically gone to Tainan, Taiwan, where they will spend the next 12 to 18 months training at Fab 18, one of five so-called “Gigafabs” producing TSMC chips on the island. Upon completion of the training, these employees will return to the U.S.
Last month Intel announced that it would invest $20 billion to build two new fabs at its Chandler facility, where the company has been producing chips since 1980. These new Intel fabs will employ an estimated 3,000 people and the TSMC plant is expected to create 2,000 new jobs. In addition to these chip-producing jobs, Arizona is home to many ancillary semiconductor companies that will benefit from the new fabs.
Several initiatives across the state have started to ensure that Arizona can fill such a large number of advanced manufacturing jobs and others in the coming years. Cassidy, CEO of TSMC Arizona, said that the engineering pipeline is what drew the company to the U.S.
“One of the key factors that drew us to expand in the United States was our confidence that the strength and diversity of the engineering talent pipeline from colleges and universities across the country would provide us with outstanding recruits. We are deeply committed to achieving diversity in our workforce, because that’s what drives innovation forward,” he said in a statement.
But Cassidy’s statement stands in contrast to recent commentary by Morris Chang, the founder of TSMC and so-called father of the Taiwanese semiconductor industry.
Last week Chang publicly expressed doubt about being able to find enough qualified employees for the Arizona facility, as compared to the Taiwanese operations, according to reporting from Asia Times.
Chang, who founded TSMC in 1987 and retired in 2018, said that compared to Taiwan, manufacturing jobs have not been popular among Americans for decades so finding talent would be a challenge.
The island of Taiwan is home to nine separate TSMC fabs, and Chang said moving employees between job assignments was simple thanks to bullet trains and other transit options. He also said simply dropping in experienced Taiwanese workers to a different culture in Arizona would not work.
“It’s unlikely we can replicate all these in Arizona,” Chang said.
Chang may be pessimistic about the prospect of TSMC’s success in Arizona, but local leaders have voiced their support.
“I’m very pleased to see how TSMC is honoring its hiring commitments from the very beginning,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said in a statement. “These new, high-value jobs are a powerful addition to our local economy. I want to be the first to congratulate them, and to welcome those who are relocating to join us in America’s fastest-growing city.”
Gov. Doug Ducey said that Arizona is the go-to place for advanced manufacturing.
“Our skilled workforce, strong supply chain, strategic geographic location, commitment to pro-innovation policies and unmatched quality of life have continued to drive rapid industry growth and economic momentum,” he said in a statement.
TSMC has 48 open positions in the U.S. listed on its hiring website.