s the nation prioritizes onshoring semiconductor manufacturing, it’s been a plentiful year of project announcements for Intel.
In addressing the aftermath of the global pandemic, which resulted in a worldwide shortage of chips, companies are presented a new challenge in the form of a talent shortage.
A challenge Intel is intent on conquering.
Successful production and innovation manufactured by a company like Intel depends on a skilled workforce. Looking toward the future of this industry in the U.S., investing to expand and diversify participation in STEM education is imperative to Intel.
Ohio was selected by Intel for two new chip manufacturing factories in Licking, Ohio, just 40 minutes outside of Columbus. It’s a monumental development not only for the state, but also the company, constructing its first new manufacturing site in 40 years.
The $20 billion investment, the largest single private-sector investment in Ohio’s history, will spread across approximately 1,000 acres to enhance chip production and produce new innovative Intel products. The January 2022 announcement stated the two factories will create 3,000 jobs at Intel and spur tens of thousands across local suppliers and partners by 2025.
If state leaders didn’t consider becoming a hub for semiconductor manufacturing before, they are now.
Three months later in March 2022, Intel announced their $100 million investment towards expanding semiconductor education, research and training across the U.S., would pair with $50 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF). In total, $100 million of the investment will be distributed across the nation to facilitate a new approach to STEM workforce development in higher education. For Ohio, Intel pledged that $50 million would go directly to the state’s higher education institutions.
The NSF was able to support the investment thanks to the passing of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 in August. The Act authorized $81 billion for the NSF to support research and STEM education to accelerate the development of critical technologies. To sweeten the pot, it also provides $52.7 billion toward American semiconductor R&D, manufacturing and workforce development.
In “The State of U.S. Science and Engineering 2022,” NSF concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic forced the nation’s S&E enterprise into rapid innovation activity. Challenges such as the semiconductor supply shortage left industries scrambling to bring operations home.
The report pinpointed four areas in which the U.S. can improve:
Of all the initiatives afoot across the U.S., companies like Intel prove that higher education and industry collaboration on workforce development might just be the most vital key to strengthening our STEM talent pipeline.
The ASCENT of Ohio’s STEM Workforce
Intel’s Semiconductor Education and Research Program for Ohio allotted $50 million to eight Ohio universities and colleges to develop programs that focus on producing a skilled STEM workforce.
Ohio University produced one of the eight selected proposals by Intel, receiving $17.7 million over the next three years for the Appalachian Semiconductor Education and Technical (ASCENT) Ecosystem. The program will offer stackable certificates and associate, bachelor’s and graduate degrees catered toward semiconductor education.
Intel’s requirement as part of the grant distribution was collaboration on programs from multiple coalitions, as opposed to selecting individual universities.
Serving the southeastern Appalachian region of Ohio, Ohio University and six of its campuses partner with Belmont College, Eastland-Fairfield Career Center, Hocking College, Marietta College, Mid-East Career and Technology Center, Shawnee State University, Tri-County Career Center and Zane State College to develop the ASCENT program.
As the coordinating institution, Ohio University professors focus on building the ASCENT semiconductor curriculum, research focuses and training alongside its partners and Intel.
This opportunity is one that Ohio University ASCENT Director Scott Miller sees as a long overdue connection between institutions in the region to tackle educational needs in the state, “Intel’s requirement has opened up a dialogue with institutions that should be stronger and will be stronger as a result of this.”
Miller notes that Intel’s investment is transformational for Ohio’s semiconductor industry and STEM students. When titans like Intel move in, it exposes students to the array of career opportunities within STEM, encouraging participation as early as K-12. As interest rises, institutions don’t know the breadth of skills and knowledge required to operate like industries do, making their participation in education essential to relevant teaching and training practices.
“The pace of technology innovation is driving new careers. Students are getting jobs in fields today that didn’t even exist 10 years ago. So, that is a challenge for not just students, but for academia as well to try and keep curriculum current with the pace of change,” says Miller.
Over the next three years, the ASCENT Ecosystem aims to build Ohio’s STEM workforce to catalyze investment in the southeast Ohio region. Intel anticipates the first program run will produce 9,000 graduates and provide 2,300 scholarships over the next three years.
“The goal is to create something that is sustainable and scalable, because I firmly believe that Intel will not be the last semiconductor factory nearby,” says Miller.
Alexis Elmore joined Conway Data in 2022 as associate editor for Site Selection. A 2021 graduate of the University of Georgia, she studied journalism and communications before moving back to Atlanta to pursue her career. As an editor for Site Selection and contributor to Conway's Custom Content guides, she writes about economic development efforts and corporate growth happening around the globe.