Taking on the Technological Revolution through Training & Growth
United Test and Assembly Center Ltd. (UTAC) is a leading independent provider of test and assembly services for a wide range of semiconductor devices. Headquartered in Singapore with more than 10,000 employees globally, the space that the company operates in is highly dynamic with swift technological advances. UTAC’s President and CEO, John Nelson and Talent Management Director, Sureash Kumar spoke to us about how they’ve seen the company grow, and how besides its business priorities, UTAC is committed to remain competitive by navigating through its changes and developing its workforce as well.
What’s at the heart of UTAC’s business and operational practice?
John: Our customers expect high quality and zero defects in our products. Because of the sheer volume of our production, the process of ensuring the zero defects is both demanding and intense. Through years of specialisation and improvement, we’ve cultivated Discipline, Knowledge, Process Excellence and Innovation to be at the heart of what we do.
How has UTAC grown as a business and organisation?
John: UTAC has been in the industry for the last 22 years and has grown through numerous regional acquisitions over the years. With that comes new teams and workforces that have diverse and different mindsets, operations practices and working cultures. Through our HQ in SG, we’ve led and unified our business functions and practices across our manufacturing sites in the regions. Today, we can proudly say that we operate as ONE UTAC company in line with our vision of “Passionate people providing customers with world class turnkey test and assembly services”.
Operationally, we have focused on automating our processes and production technology over the last 15 years. We have dedicated automation team to design and manufacture our very own equipment as we continue to evolve and grow in line with the industry’s demands.
Years ago, factories would be filled with operators who would be inspecting our products and components manually through microscopes. Today, we accomplish this with our automatic vision systems which happens to be our own technology. In the midst of this automation, we recognise that people are still a key component of the business and we continue to invest in the development of our people to upskill them for their work challenges.
Tell us more about how you build and grow your workforce.
Sureash: We balance our commitment to productivity and quality by building our employees capabilities as well. Employees are encouraged to take ownership of their development and career growth in UTAC where these focus are embedded in our performance management process to promote on-going discussions. Development framework and roadmaps are established by level (managers, professionals etc.), with required competencies and courses addressing both technical and behavioural skills. These are complemented and supported by established people processes and practices to ensure employees development is aligned to the business. Though like most organisations, we have a combination of in-house and external courses, we are inclined to develop our employees through internal facilitators and courses that tend to be bite-size and using blended-learning approach.
We also ensure development needs are delivered through on the job coaching and work related projects/experiences in line with the business and employee’s development needs.
It seems that UTAC’s vision of progress and the organisation’s goals greatly involve bringing the workforce along with you and ensuring that your staff stay adaptable.
Sureash: Given the transitions and changes in our industry we certainly require a workforce that is both agile and flexible in adapting to the demands of our customers and industry changes. Which is why in Singapore we often partner with relevant statutory bodies and education institutions to upskill our workforce.
In addition to being a WSQ Approved Training Organisation (ATO), UTAC collaborated with the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and is recognised as a Certified On-Job-Training Centre (COJTC). We were recently recognised as a Distinguished Partner commemorating ITE’s 25 th Anniversary of the scheme.
The WSQ ATO and COJTC accreditations also enabled us to support national manpower initiatives such as the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) and the SkillsFuture Earn & Learn Programme (ELP) 1 because we could deliver both in-house WSQ courses and Structured On-Job-Training to almost 100 PCP and 14 ELP candidates. We value both the PCP and ELP as two valuable and important local talent development and pipelines initiatives.
In our technical landscape we also recognise the need for leadership, management and communication skills to grow our business. As such, we develop internal courses on a modular basis to equip our managers to handle the transitions in the industry. These courses are introduced as learning roadmaps for managers to enable them to hire, coach, provide feedback and manage change effectively.
How are the Skills Frameworks part of this process?
John: This structure is an important part of our businesses. We have found that implementing the Skills Frameworks and various support resources by the Singaporean Government has helped us greatly in developing operations capability, quality requirements and discipline in our workforce.
Sureash: On a continuous basis, we also collaborate with SSG and other industry partners to develop the Skills Framework for Electronics as part of the larger Industry Transformation Programme. It is used to support HR initiatives across the employee life cycle, thus establishing a skills and behavioural based people development culture. We select relevant competencies corresponding to UTAC values and behaviours and apply it to areas like:
- Hiring: relevant Competencies are adopted as selection criteria complemented with our Behavioural and Competency-Based interview questions.
- On-Job-Training: related technical and generic competencies are used to develop the training elements in the OJT Blueprint.
- Talent Management: UTAC’s performance management system incorporates selected behavioural competencies as a significant part of the annual performance review. The SF framework also acts as a reference for employee career development and placement decisions.
What is UTAC’s vision for the future?
John: We have to keep up with the next generation of technology. The forefront of our vision is to always support our customers with the best product, technology and service. We aim to provide customised technical solutions that match their needs and demands for both their current and future needs.
While we may have robotics or automated equipment, we recognise our people provide us both our competitive edge and help us differentiate ourselves in the market.
Our employees learning and growth is driven by both our business and customer’s needs. We have a philosophy that our employees learn best on the job by “doing”. As such, we encourage our teams to connect with our customers (both internal & external) and immerse themselves with customers need and expectations. Employees continue to learn and grow by engaging and applying their job knowledge, skills and sharing expertise with their respective stakeholders.
UTAC’s management also focuses on building the organisation through our annual talent review process that helps us identify potential next generation leaders. Besides the usual development interventions, we consciously provide internal job opportunities and mobility opportunities (promotions, lateral moves, transfers and even geographic change) to develop these leaders.
Ultimately, these talent management efforts will help us build an organisation that can move and flow with the rhythm of the semiconductor industry.