U.S. Government Launches Initiative to Develop Domestic Computer-Chip Workforce

A close up of a computer chip.

The U.S. government is launching a program to develop the domestic computer-chip workforce, aiming to counter a labor shortage that could potentially hinder local semiconductor production.

A Workforce Partner Alliance

The initiative, termed a workforce partner alliance, will utilize a portion of the $5 billion federal funding allocated for a new National Semiconductor Technology Center. The plan is to award grants to up to 10 workforce development projects, each with budgets ranging from $500,000 to $2 million. Additional application processes will be initiated in the forthcoming months, with the total spending to be determined once all proposals have been evaluated.

Funding from the 2022 Chips and Science Act

The funding for this initiative is sourced from the 2022 Chips and Science Act, a significant legislation that earmarked $39 billion in grants to enhance U.S. chipmaking, and $11 billion for semiconductor research and development, including the NSTC. In response to these incentives, companies have committed to investing over ten times the allocated amount, a move that is expected to transform the global supply chain for semiconductors. This initiative represents the legislation’s first workforce-focused funding opportunity.

Addressing the Projected Labor Shortage

Industry and government officials have cautioned that the new factories could face challenges without substantial investment in labor. Projections suggest that by 2030, the U.S. could face a shortage of 90,000 technicians, a time when the country aims to manufacture at least one-fifth of the world’s most advanced chips.

The Role of Natcast and Community Colleges

Michael Barnes, senior manager of workforce development programs at Natcast, a nonprofit organization established to manage the NSTC, emphasized the importance of developing a domestic semiconductor workforce ecosystem to support the industry’s projected growth. Since the enactment of the Chips Act two years ago, over 50 community colleges have announced new or expanded semiconductor-related programs. The four largest Chips Act manufacturing awards, granted to Intel Corp., Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Samsung Electronics Co., and Micron Technology Inc., each included $40 million to $50 million in dedicated workforce funding.

Recent Grant to Rogue Valley Microdevices

On Monday, the Commerce Department announced its 12th grant from the manufacturing program, awarding $6.7 million to Rogue Valley Microdevices. This funding will support a new Florida factory focused on chips for defense and biomedical applications.

In summary, the initiative to address the labor shortage in the U.S. semiconductor industry through the workforce partner alliance and funding from the 2022 Chips and Science Act is a crucial step towards ensuring the country’s competitiveness in chip manufacturing. With a focus on investing in labor development, the industry aims to meet the growing demand for skilled technicians and support the growth of domestic semiconductor manufacturing capabilities.