The burgeoning bill for electronics imports and the government’s recent efforts to establish indigenous capacities for semiconductor manufacturing may be a step in the right direction, but the industry complains that the shortage of skilled manpower is still a major worry.

In an effort to bridge the gap, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) will start a unique course for engineers trying to enter the Very-Large-Scale Integration (VLSI) segment of the industry, the basic element in electronics.

VLSI is the process of manufacturing integrated circuits by combining thousands of transistors in a single chip. VLSI came into being in the 1970s when complex semiconductor and communication technologies were being developed. The microprocessor is an example of a VLSI device.

Collaborative effort

The Indian arm of the IEEE, a not-for-profit organisation based in New York, has entered into a collaboration with the R.V.-VLSI Design Centre, a unit of the Rashtreeya Shiksana Samiti Trust, which manages 28 educational institutions.

David Goldstein, director, New Product Development, IEEE, said the “blended learning” programme was designed by the R.V. College of Engineering, but the course content was “designed and validated by educational and industry experts from all over the world”. The IEEE had reviewed the programme, which included an online learning component and work in the laboratory.

Mr. Goldstein said the choice of location was critically dependent on not only the availability of lab facilities but also the availability of Electronic Design Automation tools, a category of software tools used for designing electronic systems such as printed circuit boards and integrated circuits. The tools would also be “vendor-neutral”, he said.

The existing cluster of VLSI designing companies in Bangalore was the reason Bangalore had been chosen as the launch pad for the initiative, Mr. Goldstein said.

“We are seeding this in Bangalore because we were satisfied by the quality of the laboratory facilities that were available at R.V. College, he said. The course is likely to be launched between April and June.

Mr. Goldstein said the programme targeted three sets of students: undergraduates, postgraduates and industry professionals. He said the professionals would go through “advanced domain modules, which is more appropriate to the skills that they already have”. In the first year, the programme would not offer certification. “Certification will happen in due course, but for now, we only plan to validate the programme so that there is acceptance in the industry,” he explained.

Increasing demand

At present, there were around 35,000 VLSI engineers in India, and the demand was increasing at an annual rate of about 10 per cent, Mr. Goldtsein said. The IEEE, he said, had plans to not only extend the programme to Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and the National Capital Region, but to use India as a launch pad to expand overseas to Sri Lanka, Vietnam and other countries in South-east Asia.

“But we are now moving in a calibrated manner because we have to ensure that the facilities are available before we launch in other locations,” he said. Although he did not reveal the cost of the course, he said they would be “cost effective” and follow what the IEEE called the “emerging markets pricing schedule”.

Sponsorship by companies had the potential to reduce costs further, he said.

Intake

The intake was likely to be limited to 500 students, said Venkatesh Prasad, CEO of the design centre, even though this could be extended to 1,000 students soon. He said the constraint on intake was set by the availability of the “sophisticated tools” that were necessary for such a programme, the access to nanotech fabrication units, and access to people from the industry.

The campus was being established at Jayanagar because it was close to the electronics cluster in Electronics City, he said.

Keywords: IEEEVLSI