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U.S. Universities Are Building a New Semiconductor Workforce
https://spectrum.ieee.org/chips-act-workforce-development#toggle-gdpr

 

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 The CHIPS and Science Act, aimed at kick-starting chip manufacturing in the United States, only began taking requests for pieces of its US $50 billion in March, but chipmakers were already gearing up beforehand. Memory and storage chipmaker Micron announced as much as $100 billion for a new plant in upstate New York. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), which was already building a $12 billion fab in Arizona, upped the investment to $40 billion with a second plant. Samsung is planning a $17 billion fab near Austin, Texas, and in September Intel broke ground on the first of two massive new facilities worth $20 billion in central Ohio.

 

Exciting as this is for the U.S. economy, there’s a potential problem: Where will the industry find the qualified workforce needed to run these plants and design the chips they’ll make? The United States today manufactures just 12 percent of the world’s chips, down from 37 percent in 1990, according to a September 2020 report by the Semiconductor Industry Association. Over those decades, experts say, semiconductor and hardware education has stagnated. But for the CHIPS Act to succeed, each fab will need hundreds of skilled engineers and technicians of all stripes, with training ranging from two-year associate degrees to Ph.D.s.

 

Engineering schools in the United States are now racing to produce that talent. Universities and community colleges are revamping their semiconductor-related curricula and forging strategic partnerships with one another and with industry to train the staff needed to run U.S. foundries. There were around 20,000 job openings in the semiconductor industry at the end of 2022, according to Peter Bermel, an electrical and computer engineering professor at Purdue University. “Even if there’s limited growth in this field, you’d need a minimum of 50,000 more hires in the next five years. We need to ramp up our efforts really quickly.”

 

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