The U.S. semiconductor industry is facing a significant workforce gap, as highlighted in a recent report by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). According to the report, the semiconductor industry’s workforce is projected to grow by 33% from approximately 345,000 jobs today to approximately 460,000 jobs by 2030. However, a staggering 58% (approximately 67,000 jobs) of these projected new positions may go unfilled if current degree completion rates persist. Specifically, there is a concern that 39% of chip factory technician jobs may remain vacant.
This workforce gap poses a critical challenge not only to the semiconductor industry but also to the overall U.S. economy. To address this issue, Intel is taking proactive steps by partnering with local community colleges to create region-specific programs that align with the workforce needs of both Intel and the semiconductor industry as a whole.
Intel’s plans include establishing new chip factories (fabs) in Ohio, which are expected to commence production in the coming years. The Ohio project is anticipated to generate approximately 3,000 Intel jobs and 7,000 construction jobs in its initial phase. Furthermore, it is set to support tens of thousands of additional long-term jobs across various sectors, including suppliers, service providers, and partners, forming a robust local ecosystem.
Historically, semiconductor companies like Intel have relied on community college students to fill a significant portion of technician roles in fabs. However, the emphasis on technician training had diminished over time as investments poured into STEM education and research at higher academic levels. Recognizing the need to bolster technician training, Intel is now focusing on establishing certification boot camps, apprenticeships, and other training programs in collaboration with community and technical colleges situated near semiconductor fabs.
In Ohio, Columbus State Community College and several other educational institutions have pioneered an industry-first one-year semiconductor technician certificate program. This program is designed to build a skilled talent pipeline for the semiconductor industry. It consists of three newly developed courses: Introduction to Manufacturing, Semiconductor 101, and Vacuum Systems. Notably, these courses integrate math and science content directly into their curriculum, removing potential barriers related to students’ confidence in these subjects. Moreover, the program offers transferable credits, reducing the financial burden on students and promoting diversity within the semiconductor workforce.
Intel has played a pivotal role in shaping this program by consolidating the key technical skills required for entry-level technician positions. These skills include familiarity with hand tools, knowledge of mechanical, pneumatic, hydraulic, and vacuum systems, mathematical proficiency for troubleshooting and statistical analysis, understanding of electrical basics and electronics, and awareness of chemicals and gases used in semiconductor fabrication. Additionally, the program places importance on professional skills such as industry knowledge, communication abilities, problem-solving, and critical thinking.
In addition to these initiatives, Intel collaborates with the National Science Foundation on two programs: Enhancing Engineering Technology and Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing Technician Education (ETSTE) and Future of Semiconductors (FuSe). These collaborations aim to ensure that the U.S. workforce is adequately prepared for the evolving landscape of semiconductor manufacturing.
Overall, Intel’s comprehensive approach to addressing the workforce gap in the semiconductor industry includes regional educational programs, targeted technician certification efforts, and partnerships with national organizations to foster talent across various education levels. These endeavors are not only essential for Intel’s Ohio expansion but also contribute to meeting the industry’s growing demands nationwide.