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Building the Future of Semiconductors in Europe: A Conversation with Bernd Holthaus, HR Director

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We recently spoke with Bernd Holthaus, HR Director for Intel Germany, about the company, roles and opportunities, and the large, planned investment in a new semiconductor factory (fab) in Magdeburg.

Bernd, could you start off by introducing yourself?

My name is Bernd Holthaus and I’m the HR Director for Intel Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Poland. I’ve been at Intel for 17 years, but that’s history. Currently I’m leading the recently announced investment in the semiconductor fab in Germany, located in Magdeburg. I take care of all HR-related workstreams and we’re working towards the ambitious goal of breaking ground in the first half of 2023 and being up and running for production in 2027.


This big investment is part of IDM 2.0. Could you share your perspective on why this is important for Intel and Europe? 

First of all, we see a huge available market in various industries and countries, with a significant number of customers in need of more semiconductors for their products in the future. The use cases for semiconductor technology will expand to beyond a car, a refrigerator, an industry appliance or a technology that is presently used. Secondly, since the start of the pandemic, we’ve learned that supply chains are very fragile, which has an economic impact. Intel has the customers and the political awareness of governments in the European Union and globally to support and make the supply chains more resilient. It’s a win-win situation. It’s a win for Intel, but also a win for the European economy, a win for the supply chain and a win for the customers.


And how will this planned investment influence the suppliers and the whole local ecosystem? 

Many small and medium-sized companies can benefit from this investment—from the proximity of the planned site.  A lot of suppliers may be able to contribute to the fab, with materials, electricity, food etc. This all means that there will be a large impact on the local community and surrounding regions. Other businesses will benefit indirectly. On another level, there will be continuous growth. Intel is planning provide jobs to workers who will build the fab, and we’ll aim to have about 3,000 permanent fab workers there, with the first positions already being advertised online. We will also put effort into continuously building our education pipeline through universities, schools, research and development. It’s a whole ecosystem that will grow over time and is likely to generate jobs in the region and across many sectors, as we have seen at other Intel locations.


When thinking about big companies, people sometimes worry about various impacts on the community, the environment, etc. How does Intel want to mitigate these risks? 

This is a very important subject for Intel. Ever since I’ve joined the company, there has been a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program, which considers how we act in the context of how we engage with the community and the environment, and our global impact. Being aware that we are a global player, we also want to be a role model for other countries, companies and industries in having a sustainable footprint. We recently announced Intel’s commitment to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. In Ireland for example, we are actively engaging with local communities and our construction team to find solutions to how we can make this site as sustainable as possible. Sustainability goes far beyond the topics of pollution and electricity. It’s also: where does the food come from? How can employees get to the site in an environmentally friendly way? I’d like to quote one of Intel’s senior leaders who said “Bernd, we want to be in a space where Magdeburg is absolutely proud of what we’re doing and that we have the full support of the community.” This is the long-term approach and that means that we have to engage early on, educate, share and listen to achieve that.


There are of course several phases of building and operating the site. Can you share what kind of roles will be available now and at later stages? 

We are currently in the planning permission phase. This obviously requires engineers who can develop such a site. There are also functions in HR, in finance and public affairs. Later planned roles include those in supply chain and manufacturing. There will be a broad scope and a very large variety of vacancies until we reach the full planned headcount, which will be about 3,000 employees.


What advice would you give someone who is at the beginning of their career, perhaps still in college? What path should they choose to make them sought after talent for Intel? 

I think the most important thing is that anybody who would like to work for Intel needs to be clear about their passions. Then we can identify the perfect spot for that candidate. Intel is an employer that can create fantastic careers over a longer period. That is our ambition—hiring for the long run. We want to create careers where our employees don’t just have an occupation, but where they find their profession and passion. My advice is to start with finding what you are enthusiastic about. It may be engineering, manufacturing semiconductors, environmental health and safety, finance etc. Find out what it is and be specific about it. If you identify that, you can become a superstar in your field. Sometimes it’s also finding out what you don’t want. Are you a process type of person? Are you an extrovert and love working with people? Who are you and who are you not? That gives more clarity than any job description.


What sets Intel apart from other employers? 

I think that Intel offers a perfect combination of several factors. Firstly, there’s a lot of change going on, since Intel is on a growth trajectory. This is a huge attribute because it means that there are a large number of job opportunities. Secondly, what sets us apart from the competition is our culture, diversity and inclusion. Ultimately, it’s the people that make the difference in all competitive environments. It’s the people that make you successful or not. Thirdly, Intel has a purpose. Our purpose is technology for good and to improve the lives of every person on earth. People working for Intel have clarity about Intel’s strategy, but we also aim for something bigger, beyond the products. We have talked about sustainability, about RISE 2030 and our ambitious goal for diversity and inclusion—Intel has many goals that people can buy into, that resonate with them. Another advantage is the combination of job scope, fair pay and compensation with benefits at Intel. I think we have a very attractive package to propose.


Could you elaborate a bit more on the compensation and benefits package for employees? 

We offer a first-class base salary that is aligned to the market. We have quarterly and annual bonuses that recognize efforts, but also achievements. Something else that sets us apart from competition is the stock purchasing program. You can buy stock, invest and participate as a stakeholder in the company that you work for. We also have numerous benefits like mobility benefits, tax deduction programs in which you can lease a bike or a car, wellness days, an employee assistance program and more. It would take too long to list everything. We are aware that we have different employees, with different needs and life situations and we need to address that. For example, for many people the pension plan may be extremely important. For others, it may be flexibility or a part-time working model.


Could you share more about flexibility at Intel, bearing in mind that we are slowly emerging from COVID-19 and companies are planning on returning to the office. 

Aside from manufacturing roles that can’t work from home, COVID-19 forced us to go into a completely remote mode of work. The pandemic taught us to challenge how we work. That has led us to consider the ‘Future of Work’. Fundamental to this is the fact that we fully trust our employees that they will be productive in a model which operates on flexibility. This means that the employee chooses whether they work on site or not. We never thought this would be possible, but we embarked on this journey because of the pandemic and it’s exciting. We have seen other companies reverting back to a strictly office environment; that is not our ambition. We know that there’s a strong desire for flexibility from the candidates’ side too, and we offer that where we can. Some people prefer to go to the office, some don’t, some love the commute to work, some don’t. I’ll circle back to benefits—we have a program called ‘Keep You Productive at Home’, where we grant allowances for purchasing equipment for working at home. The work culture is moving from a presence on site culture, to an outcome and productivity culture, independent of where you work from.


Do you have any HR insider tips for future candidates? 

Basically, intel.com/jobs is the place to be—it’s a whole experience. Plus, the current status is always accurate. Secondly, your CV/resume is the most important document to help you stand out, so make it accessible to us and understandable. Talent recruiters get a lot of applications. My biggest tip is to understand your current role and your biggest achievements. What are you passionate about and what are you proud of? Make us curious to find out more about you.


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