Chris Meadows is the director of CSConnected, the world’s first compound semiconductor cluster which is based in Wales. Following a childhood passion for technology, Chris secured an apprenticeship at BT which paved the way for his successful career.
Now, a leader in his field, he talks about why getting young people into the sector is essential to securing Wales’ economic progress and how the Welsh Government’s Young Person’s Guarantee has an important part to play.
Wales’ position as a global competitor in compound semiconductors has CSConnected thinking strategically about how it can introduce young people into the sector and future-proof its businesses.
Chris reminisces about his own introduction to the industry, explaining: “I came into the sector as a young person myself. I was a Graduate Apprentice at BT’s global research and development headquarters, gaining experience in areas including semiconductor technologies, which ignited my passion and laid the foundations for where I am today. I was really excited to be at the forefront of this emerging technology.”
Chris is passionate about semiconductors and their role in advancing Wales’ economy. He says:
“I can’t think of any other industry which has made such a rapid advancement over the past 50 years. Globally, it’s already a $500 billion a year industry, which is forecast to grow to a trillion by 2035.
“With ongoing technological advancements surpassing the practical capacities of silicon semiconductors, new materials that operate similarly, but have much higher levels of performance are in demand. In Wales, we had companies that were already creating this. We realised that such concentrated expertise in designing and producing these compound semiconductors was something unique to Wales that didn’t exist anywhere else in the world.
“Wales’ reputation for compound semiconductor technology is very strong. For a relatively small nation, we’re well represented in the sector and are well-known at international conferences because of our global market production.”
Chris emphasises the importance of training and employing young people in order to capitalise on this success and continue growing the sector in Wales.
“It’s never been more important to give young people opportunities to enter our industry, which is why we’re supporting the Welsh Government’s Young Persons Guarantee by working with colleges and universities to develop courses which build that knowledge and boost an interest in our work.
“In Wales, we have many career and educational pathways including apprenticeships, BTEC courses and graduate programmes, including master’s degrees and doctoral training in compound semiconductors.
“There are jobs out there, and within the cluster expansions are happening. There are more than 2,000 in Wales currently employed in semiconductors, but this will likely increase to 5,000 over the next five years. There are so many exciting roles within the high-tech sector that enables gaming, automotive and healthcare technologies – it’s in everything.
“We need more young people to enter the industry. Because it’s such a growing sector, there is a need for enthusiasm and fresh ideas to build on what we already have. Many of the companies within the cluster are already involved in apprenticeship programmes, internships, work experience and looking at recruiting locally. We have a large number of graduates within the cluster organisations too.”
The cluster also has a rich history of recruiting talented young people and upskilling from within to form sustainable organisations.
“I know of many people who joined our industry 20-30 years ago who are now members of the senior management teams in these companies. We are a world leader in the area of a high-tech product, and we want to maintain that position for the next few decades. We need to make sure that young people are coming in to keep that momentum going.”
As part of Welsh Government’s Young Person’s Guarantee, Business Wales Recruit and Train offers a wide range of support to help employers create opportunities for young people and adults to enter the workplace, including Apprenticeships and Jobs Growth Wales+.
Visit https://businesswales.gov.wales/skillsgateway/ to find out more.