Title, Date, Attachment, Content
Policy Directions for Developing Talent in High-tech Industries of Korea
Date 2023-03-29

Policy Directions for Developing Talent in High-tech Industries of Korea

Chung Jaeho, Senior Research Fellow 

(Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training)




1. Introduction


The development of skilled human resources in high-tech industries has emerged as a critical national policy task in South Korea, as it is recognized as a key driver of future growth. This is reflected in the “Yoon Suk Yeol Administration’s 110 National Policy Tasks issued in May and the “New Administration’s Economic Policy Plan” issued in June. To further elaborate on these initiatives, the Yoon Suk Yeol administration announced the “Talent Development Plan for the Semiconductor Industry” and the “Strategy for Becoming a Semiconductor Superpower” in July, along with the “Comprehensive Plan for Nurturing Digital Talent” in August. Furthermore, the Yoon Suk Yeol administration intends to prepare and announce cross-ministerial measures starting from September, aimed at fostering and supplying specialized human resources to meet the requirements of high-tech industries such as biohealth and new and renewable energy (Ministry of Education, July 2022).


Figure 1. Talent development plans announced by the new administration






Requires top-level human resources to secure 

super gap in the midst 

of   global competition.

“Intensive cultivation of core talents to lead a super gap”

Talent Development 

Plan for the Semiconduc-tor Industry (July)

Digital technology

Demands various levels of digital talent across all 

areas of society.

“Cultivating talent by 

level and enhancing 

the capabilities of 

the entire nation”

Comprehensive Plan for Nurturing Digital Talent (August)

High-tech fields such as biohealth and renewable energy

Requires a specialized workforce to meet the specific requirements of each 


“Developing and 

supplying a tailored 


Cross-ministerial measures by field 

(Starting from 


Source: Ministry of Education (July 2022)


This paper reviews the recent plans announced by the government to foster human resources in high-tech industries, while considering the challenges that must be addressed during their implementation in the future.


Ⅱ. Overview of National Policy Tasks and Talent Development Plans


1. The Yoon Suk Yeol Administration’s Key Policy Tasks for Developing Skilled Human Resources in High-tech Industries


“Nurturing one million digital talents” (Policy Task 81) has been proposed as a national policy task to enhance the country's competitiveness through the timely development of skilled human resources in high-tech industries, such as digital technology and semiconductors. The main components of this policy task include talent development in high-tech industries such as digital technology and semiconductors, establishing the training infrastructure for digital technology, and promoting public-private collaboration for talent development and training. Further details are outlined below.

Firstly, digital talents including those related to metaverse technology will be established through the utilization of resources both within and beyond universities. To achieve this objective, the government plans to establish or expand high-tech departments in universities, while implementing a flexible enrollment quota for graduate schools. In conjunction with such university policies, a new basic plan for industrial talent development will be established.

Secondly, the government aims to proactively revise university regulations to promote talent development in high-tech industries, such as semiconductors, while providing full support for teachers, school curricula, and equipment. Boot camps will be established at universities to offer tailored education for both majoring and non-majoring students who are aspiring to work in the semiconductor field. Such efforts will be accompanied by the cultivation of researchers at master's and doctoral levels as well as the encouragement of vocational training and retraining in advanced fields.

Thirdly, efforts will be made to establish the necessary infrastructure to develop digital talent. This will involve the creation of the talent development committee and the basic plan for national talent development. Furthermore, talent development data, which is currently managed separately by various ministries, will be linked to enhance the statistical infrastructure related to this task.

Fourth, public-private partnerships will be promoted to cultivate digital talent. For example, “Digital Talent Alliance” will be established to connect companies with job applicants who have completed the training program designed by each company, and the “K-Digital Global Network” will be implemented to effectively utilize digital talents both domestically and internationally. These efforts will expand digital education opportunities for young job seekers and local experts, ultimately fostering a pool of digital transformation experts.

“Securing a super gap in future strategic industries such as semiconductors, AI, and batteries” (Policy Task 24) has been also proposed to develop high-tech industries that are directly related to economic security and national competitiveness into future strategic industries. One of the main objectives of this policy task, particularly concerning talent development, is to establish an ecosystem to nurture skilled human resources who will lead future strategic industries. Specifically, the government plans to designate universities specializing in semiconductors and expand enrollment quotas for related departments in these universities, while increasing employment contract programs and industry-academia collaboration programs to foster a workforce that satisfies industry requirements.


2. Talent Development Plan for the Semiconductor Industry (July 19, 2022)


To draw a detailed plan for nurturing high-tech talent proposed as a national policy task, the Yoon Suk Yeol administration established a high-tech talent development task force and announced the “Talent Development Plan for the Semiconductor Industry” in July. The plan includes several objectives such as expanding enrollment quotas through regulatory overhaul and support, improving the quality of the workforce through expanded talent development programs at each level, and establishing a groundwork for medium- to long-term talent development and training.

Firstly, one of the objectives of the plan is to expand enrollment quotas for semiconductor-related departments through regulatory reforms and financial support. In order to establish or expand college departments, it is necessary to meet four requirements including the school site, school building, faculty, and basic assets to generate revenue. Nevertheless, regulations will be revised to allow for increased enrollment quotas regardless of the region, provided that the faculty requirement is fulfilled. Additionally, a “contract quota system” will be introduced to temporarily increase the maximum quota of departments without the need to establish a separate department.

To ensure that qualified experts from the industry field are available to serve as faculty members, the plan proposes the alleviation of requirements for adjunct and visiting professors in high-tech fields such as semiconductors, while supporting the costs for inviting professors. Furthermore, a “Semiconductor Education Support Group” composed of field experts will be established to support vocational schools and universities. The requirements for classroom operation will also be eased, allowing bachelor's degree programs to be offered online. The establishment requirements and admission qualifications for corporate in-house universities will also be relaxed so that companies can directly train necessary human resources.

Also, universities with excellent semiconductor education capabilities will be designated as semiconductor specialist universities or graduate schools, which will receive financial support and regulatory specialties to foster high-level experts. To meet the specific labor demands of companies, employment contract programs will be expanded for semiconductor-related departments, while the programs and curricula at vocational schools will be restructured to align with industry requirements.

Secondly, the plan proposes the expansion of vocational education and training programs at each level to improve the quality of the workforce. This will be achieved through investments in large-scale research and development to foster core experts who will lead a super gap in semiconductor technology, as well as the improvement of an educational environment for research and development to attract top talent. Opportunities for industry-academia collaboration with companies will be expanded for master's and doctoral students, and cooperation with semiconductor giants will be strengthened to expand exchanges between R&D personnel.

In order to foster convergence talent, convergence curricula will be expanded to allow the participation of students from majors other than those related to semiconductors. In the short term, intensive semiconductor courses (semiconductor boot camps) will be operated in universities, along with the establishment of job training programs for youths, which are designed and operated by leading semiconductor companies. In the medium term, access to semiconductor education will be improved by utilizing innovation sharing universities and leading universities for industry-academia-government cooperation, and semiconductor-specialized major tracks will be promoted through joint inter-ministerial talent development projects.

To foster a tailored workforce that can be immediately deployed into the industrial field, short-term practical courses for the semiconductor field will be expanded at vocational schools, along with the expansion of practical training infrastructure such as facilities and equipment to be used for new technologies and new industries. In the medium term, programs tailored to meet the requirements of companies, as well as work-study programs, will be expanded at vocational schools and junior colleges, and semiconductor-specialized campuses and departments will be expanded at Korea Polytechnics.

To strengthen the capabilities of employees in semiconductor-related companies, vocational training courses will be significantly expanded at each level. Short-term capacity-building programs will be expanded for employees working in small and medium-sized companies in semiconductor materials, component, and equipment as well as fabless manufacturing, while medium- and long-term training courses will also be provided for companies wishing to foster core talents.

Thirdly, a medium- to long-term support system will be established to develop skilled human resources for the semiconductor industry. Support will initially be provided for research and education by linking the infrastructures of universities throughout the country. The Seoul National University Semiconductor Joint Research Center will be designated as the hub university for semiconductor research and education, following an upgrade of its facilities to expand its functions. Other universities with the infrastructure for semiconductor education and research will be designated as regional joint research centers and provided support for education and research in their respective regions. Semiconductor equipment at institutions participating in the national nano-infrastructure project will be upgraded to establish a joint use system, which will strengthen field training that utilizes these facilities.

To identify national talent development agendas and develop related policies, the “Strategy Meeting for Talent Development” will be established. This meeting will promote concerted action among ministries for semiconductor-related policies by establishing a collaboration system to check and monitor the implementation of the policies. Additionally, to provide empirical support for such collaboration, analysis will be improved by enhancing labor supply forecasts and employment status analysis. To promote balanced growth among regions and companies, a local university innovation ecosystem will be established, along with the encouragement of cooperation between small and medium-sized companies in the semiconductor field.


3. Comprehensive Plan for Nurturing Digital Talent (August 22, 2022)


In August, the government announced the “Comprehensive Plan for Nurturing Digital Talent” to pursue the goal of “fostering one million digital talents,” which was presented as a national policy task. Under the vision of “dynamic and innovative growth led by digital talent,” this roadmap aims to cultivate a million digital-savvy individuals by 2026. To this end, it outlines detailed plans to develop three types of digital talent: 1) highly skilled digital professionals, 2) talent with the capacity to apply digital skills in their domain of work, and 3) those who utilize digital skills in everyday life. The following is an overview of the plans and subsequent policy support system to foster the first and second types of digital talent.

Firstly, the plans to foster highly skilled digital professionals include regulatory innovation, leading university development, R&D human resource development, startup support, and digital-savvy young talent development. Regulatory innovation allows the requirements for increasing the enrollment quota for high-tech majors, which were presented in the “Talent Development Plan for the Semiconductor Industry,” to be applied uniformly to digital-related majors as well. Furthermore, to foster universities that will lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution, more universities will be selected as participants in the Convergence and Open Sharing System and/or the National Program of Excellence in Software, while the “Leaders in Industry-University Cooperation 3.0 (LINC 3.0)” will be conducted to spread an educational model of university-industry collaboration at graduate schools in digital and high-tech fields. In addition, Meister colleges will be expanded and the Technology Officer Training Program, which offers a curriculum that integrates specialized high schools and junior colleges in new industries, will be offered to foster (professional) technical experts, who will serve as the foundation for growth in new digital industries.

The Fourth Phase of the Brain Korea 21 (BK21) project will help nurture a new pool of researchers in new industries, expand postgraduate courses in digital fields, and support startups that create opportunities through emerging digital technologies. In order to nurture young talent, schools for the gifted and science high schools will offer not only curricula specializing in software and AI, but also more classes for young software talent. Meister high schools will be expanded to cater to labor demand in digital industries by preemptively training highly skilled digital workers, while specialized high schools will be supported to reform and restructure departments, along with the reinforcement of digital competency education.

Secondly, the plans to foster talent with the capacity to apply digital skills in their domain of work include offering a digital convergence course to those who are not majoring in the digital field, providing digital skill training support for workers, and expanding vocational education and training in the digital area for job seekers.

Intensive courses (“boot camps”) will be offered to undergraduates and graduate students who hope to be employed in high-tech industries, while a “virtual digital campus” will be created online to help those who are not majoring in the digital field to develop their digital competency. Some junior colleges will be designated as digital transformation (DX) academies, which will offer curricula that enable workers to freely move between the campus and the workplace. In addition, “DX experts” will be trained to provide digital transformation consulting services, which businesses can receive using the newly launched “DX voucher,” and education and training will be expanded to improve the digital capabilities of workers in various industries.

The Campus Software Academy, the Corporate Membership Software Camp, and other training courses led by businesses will be offered to train individuals who satisfy the specific demands of the industry, and the businesses that operate their own digital training courses will be granted benefits as part of the “Digital Leaders Club.” “High-tech” vocational training courses related to new industries and technologies will be established in Korea Polytechnics, while private sector-led vocational training, titled K-Digital Training, will be further expanded.

Thirdly, the government will launch the “Strategy Meeting for Talent Development” to successfully execute the Comprehensive Plan for Nurturing Digital Talent, along with the “Digital Talent Alliance,” a public-private cooperative body, to discuss topics such as ways to improve hiring and workplace issues and the joint use of infrastructure. Moreover, the human resource management and support system will be established to enable more accurate forecasts of labor supply and demand, and demand analysis based on data will be conducted to complement existing workforce demand surveys.


III. Policy Recommendations


As mentioned above, the government has set human resource development in high-tech industries as a national policy task and announced plans to achieve this task, firstly in the semiconductor industry, followed by digital industries. Now detailed action plans should be developed for each project. The following are four proposals that must be considered in implementing the talent development plans.

Firstly, integrated governance should be established to supervise and adjust the human resource development plans in high-tech industries. As shown by various projects presented in the plans, fostering talent in high-tech fields is a task that should be accomplished by multiple government agencies through diverse projects, as opposed to by a single agency. For instance, the “Task Force for High-Tech Talent Development,” which was launched to devise plans for human resource development, is led by the Vice Minister of Education, with the participation of various ministries including the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Science and ICT, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Employment and Labor, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, and the Ministry of SMEs and Startups.

Thus, in order to link projects by different ministries with each other and lead them to contribute to effective human resource development, it is necessary to establish a system of governance that supervises and adjusts such projects. To this end, the talent development plans propose consultation among the ministries involved in the “Talent Development Committee” and the “Strategy Meeting for Talent Development,” thereby creating an imminent need to organize such a governing body.

Integrated governance should not only establish the agenda and policies related to human resource development, but also examine and assess policy implementation and outcomes. Subsequently, the action plans should be modified and complemented based on the aforementioned inspection and assessment. When this system of governance is able to serve as a control tower with the necessary authority and play a practical role, the talent development projects will be implemented smoothly.

Secondly, information infrastructure needs to be established to ensure evidence-based policy for human resource development. In particular, investment should be expanded to allow a more accurate forecasting of labor supply and demand in high-tech industries. One of the concerns raised when the two roadmaps for talent development were announced was about oversupply, which can cause unemployment crisis among young job seekers such as high school or college graduates. In contrast, the undersupply of the workforce can cause labor shortage in businesses, thereby hindering the development of new industries.

As such, the accurate prediction of medium- to long-term labor force supply and demand is crucial in planning human resource development. However, forecasting the future is extremely difficult. Considering the rapid pace at which technologies are advancing in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, accurate prediction may be impossible in the first place. Nevertheless, talent development policies cannot be implemented without clear planning. Therefore, significant effort should be made to collect as diverse a range of data and information as possible to enable more accurate prediction of labor force supply and demand. In addition, investment needs to be expanded to generate various raw data, discover and collect usable data, and develop sophisticated prediction methods.

Thirdly, it is necessary to specify the annual goal of each project as part of the announced talent development plans. The government plans to foster 150,000 talents in the semiconductor industry over the course of a decade and a million digital talents for the next five years. To this end, various projects will be conducted to target mid-level vocational education, higher education, and vocational training. In spite of such goals, it remains undecided as to how long, how many, and how professional talents will be fostered in each project. As such, these aspects should be specified as the projects are implemented.

There is a time lag when fostering talents through school education, and thus, vocational training may help develop more human resources than school education in the early stage. However, the proportions can be reversed from the mid-stage. In the early stage, vocational training is designed to nurture mostly entry- to mid-level talents, but as their capabilities are developed, entry-level training courses may be gradually reduced. To this end, detailed roadmaps for human resource development should be made in each project, and the implementation plans need to be modified and complemented through inspection and assessment throughout the implementation process.

Fourth, talent development policy should be enforced in close association with other policies, such as policies on industries, the labor market, and balanced regional development. With regard to the high-tech industries, designated by the government as a strategic industrial sector for securing a next growth engine, human resources should be developed based on the prediction that labor demand in the sector will be expanded in the medium term, even if there is a lack of demand in the short term. As local governments often make efforts to attract and support new industries as a strategy to develop their respective regions, plans for human resource development needs to be implemented in connection with each region’s development strategies.

Furthermore, talent development policy is closely correlated with labor market policy. This is aptly exemplified by the recent labor shortage in the shipbuilding industry. As it is widely known, the labor shortage in the shipbuilding industry is not caused by a lack of skilled workers. It is rather because skilled workers who left the industry amidst the crisis that it faced in 2016 have yet to return due to poor working conditions. Similarly, even if talented workers were fostered in the semiconductor and digital fields according to the set goals, the labor shortage will not be resolved as long as the working conditions in the related fields remain poor. Therefore, labor market policy should be enforced along with talent development policy to improve the quality of jobs in high-tech industries. 





Related Ministries (June 2022), Economic Policy Directions of the New Administration.

_______________ (July 2022), Talent Development Plan for the Semiconductor Industry.

_______________ (August 2022), Comprehensive Plan for Nurturing Digital Talent.

Ministry of Education (July 2022), Ministry of Education Reports.

Kim Hyung-Man (2021), Theory and Policy of Human Resources, Pakyoungsa.

20th Presidential Transition Committee (2022), Yoon Suk Yeol Administration’s 120 National Policy Tasks.