Addressing the semiconductor skill shortage
The future of the semiconductor industry depends on future engineers, thus it depends on the education of students. Now, companies are looking to address the shortage themselves.
Evertiq has previously the US semiconductor industry is facing a skill crisis. A recent study made by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), together with Oxford Economics, says that employment in the sector will grow to 460,000 by the end of the decade, up from roughly 345,000 now. However, this won't be nearly enough to meet the total demand for qualified professionals in the field. Instead, the industry will still be 67,000 workers short by 2030.
This fact is highlighted by Gabriela Cruz Thompson, senior director of University Research and Collaboration at Intel Labs, in a recent editorial where she states that based on this forecast, 39% of chip factory technician jobs may remain vacant.
"Closing the talent gap is critical to the success of the U.S. economy and the semiconductor industry. Intel is facing this challenge head-on by creating specific regional programs in partnership with local community colleges to meet Intel’s and the semiconductor industry’s workforce needs," Gabriela Cruz Thompson writes.
Looking at the recent movement within the industry, with major fab projects announced over the course of a few years, the industry is most definitely looking to grow in size and capacity. However, without the necessary skills available to run these fabs, things could turn bleak.
Thompson notes that Intel's new Ohio chip fabs are anticipated to start producing chips within the next few years. The initial phase of the Ohio project is expected to create 3,000 Intel jobs, while also supporting tens of thousands of additional local long-term jobs across a broad ecosystem of suppliers and partners – from semiconductor equipment and materials suppliers to a range of service providers.
The majority of technician positions at semiconductor fabs have historically been filled by community college students. However, as companies increased their investments in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and research funding for bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. programmes, the focus on technician training waned over time.
A good option to address the technician skills gap is to extend programmes like certification boot camps, apprenticeships, and other training programmes at community and technical colleges located near new and expanding semiconductor fabs, SIA reports.
Historically, Intel has invested regionally in technician programs in Arizona, Oregon and New Mexico, and internationally in Ireland and Israel where its large fab manufacturing and research and development facilities are located, Thompson explains in her editorial. She continues to state that Intel has used critical lessons from these other places to redesign technician education in order to assist the Ohio fabs. Intel discovered that financial circumstances, as well as confidence in math and scientific skills, might be a barrier to students enrolling in a technical two-year programme.
To address this, community colleges in Ohio, led by Columbus State Community College, created the industry’s first stackable, shareable and transferable one-year semiconductor technician certificate program.
The program is set to launch in 2023-24 to help build the talent pipeline. Colleges include Columbus State Community College, Marion Technical College, Rhodes State College, North Central State College, Central Ohio Technical College, Clark State, Northwestern State, Stark State, Zane State, Owens Community College and Lorian Community College. The certificate includes three newly developed courses that are well aligned with the minimum technical skills required for an entry-level technician position outlined by Intel.