GlobalFoundries continues to invest billions of dollars in upstate New York to make the semiconductors that are in such short supply globally. As the nation’s leaders look to shore up the sector’s supply chain and support reshoring of manufacturing, the company’s supply of talent may prove to be the most important pipeline of all.
In July, GlobalFoundries (GF) announced it would invest $1 billion at its existing Fab 8 in Malta, New York, to immediately add an additional 150,000 wafers per year to help address the global chip shortage. Following that, GF plans to construct a new fab that will create more than 1,000 new direct high-tech jobs and thousands more indirect jobs.
“Following the successful investment model of Fab 8, GF is planning to fund the new facility through private-public partnerships including customers, federal and state investments,” the company announced. “This new capacity will serve the growing demand for secure, feature-rich chips needed by high-growth markets including automotive, 5G connectivity and the Internet of Things. The facility will also support national security requirements for a secure supply chain.”
GF has invested more than $15 billion in its Fab 8 facility over the last decade to support innovation and increase manufacturing capacity. The new investments are part of the company’s broader global expansion plans that include a recently announced new fab in Singapore and a planned $1 billion investment to expand in Germany. GF employs more than 15,000 worldwide with 7,000 people across the U.S., and nearly 3,000 at its headquarters in Malta.
“Our industry is expected to grow more in the next decade than it did in the past 50 years," GlobalFoundries CEO Tom Caulfield said in July, "and GF is stepping up to do its part as we work together to address the growing demand for technology innovation for the betterment of humanity.”
Bettering the skills of the humanity working for GF is central to its mission and to regional and state economic development. GF’s higher education partnerships across New York and the Northeast include such institutions as SUNY Empire State College, Dutchess Community College, Excelsior College, SUNY Poly and UAlbany, as well as the Industry Approved Apprenticeship Program (IAAP) from global industry association SEMI that is carried out with Hudson Valley Community College and Fulton-Montgomery Community College.
The partnership with UAlbany, the first of its kind at the institution, offers benefits to GF U.S.-based employees who choose to pursue undergraduate and graduate programs on campus. It includes graduate application fee waivers, priority application review for all eligible undergraduate and graduate programs, deferred billing options and affordable online tuition rates for out-of-state employees. Employees can further benefit by utilizing GF’s tuition reimbursement program.
“There are currently more than 120 UAlbany alumni companywide working on our GF team, several in leadership positions,” said Peter Benyon, GF Fab 8 vice president and general manager, when the program was announced in July. “This educational partnership is a great opportunity for our employees to enhance their skills and careers. For UAlbany, partnering with GF brings skilled professionals to campus, broadening the learning experience for current attendees, and provides a regular cadence of new students.”
“Our industry is expected to grow more in the next decade than it did in the past 50 years, and GF is stepping up to do its part as we work together to address the growing demand for technology innovation for the betterment of humanity.” — GlobalFoundries CEO Tom Caulfield
Tara McCaughey, the education and workforce development lead for the company, is a former STEM and math instructor who got her start in the field working as an engineer and then engineering team leader for STMicroelectronics in Arizona.
“Our work to increase the talent pipeline in the regions where we operate has never been more important,” she says when asked how the company develops and maintains its skills base at this watershed moment for the industry and the economy. “Our business-education partnerships help us build and strengthen our talent pipeline through hiring, training and creating continuing education opportunities for our employees. GF works with our education partners in a multi-faceted approach. One aspect is through advising curricula development in degree programs which align with the skills we need in advanced manufacturing. We launched a GF Maintenance Technician Apprenticeship and offer Technician Internships and College Internships that align with these degree programs at our partner schools.”
Employees who wish to further their education also can utilize GF’s tuition reimbursement benefit, and can leverage additional benefits offered through agreements with partner colleges, she says. “These additional benefits can make going back to school even more attractive to our employees, either through a lower cost of attendance, an attractive timing for tuition payments or a class schedule for working adults that allows them to more easily attend classes. Our degree partnership program is a great retention tool for our talented employees who wish to pursue a further degree, while also bringing new skills into the workplace.”
Jewel in the SUNY Crown
SUNY Empire State College, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, stands out in the SUNY system for its focus on individualized degree programs for students — including those with full-time jobs — at any stage of life or learning. Today SUNY Empire has more than 110 online degrees and certificates, locations in every region of the state and seven international sites. Its corporate partners include such major New York employers as GF, GEICO and CVS Health. And it’s part of a SUNY system that offers more than 300 micro-credentials.
The school awards more than 3,000 degrees annually and 94% of graduates stay in the state. SUNY Empire is also breaking new ground in the field of incremental credentialing: the notion that workplace training ought to count for something academically for the worker at the same time it dials up more aptitude and effectiveness for the employer. SUNY Empire uses a tool called Professional Learning Evaluations, whereby an academic team evaluates workplace learnings from training programs or license certifications, equates it to college credit and links it to programs.
“It enables us to have partnerships with these organizations and industries and offer employees credit for the learning they’ve acquired, mapping it right onto a degree program,” Nan Travers, director of SUNY Empire’s Center for Leadership in Credentialing Learning, tells me.
Travers and colleagues from two other institutions in North Carolina and Colorado in September were awarded a nearly $3 million Institute of Education Sciences grant through their “Transformative Research in the Education Sciences” program to develop a recognized incremental credentialing system for U.S. postsecondary education that will improve academic and labor-market outcomes for students. The grant comes just as a previous “All Learning Counts” grant from the Lumina Foundation has run its course.
The idea is not to abandon college degree goals, but to stop ignoring the estimated 36 million Americans who fall into the “some college, no degree” population, who are sometimes treated as if they had no post-secondary education at all. Travers is also engaged in a national Lumina-backed program called “Credential As You Go” whose partners include SUNY Empire, the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce and the Program on Skills, Credentials & Workforce Policy at George Washington University.
“We were we were designed to be the SUNY solution for the adult learner,” says Travers, meaning a high degree of institutional knowledge has accumulated. “Things like the prior learning assessment and the self-designed, flexible degree have been in place here for 50 years. Our approach to higher education focuses on the best ways to work with adult learners, knowing that they're working, that they have families, that school is only one part of what they can focus on in a day.”
The first question for both employee and employer, she says, is “What’s a good fit?” And that counts whether the employer is based in New York, elsewhere in the U.S. or abroad. “We have different ways of thinking through what's the best fit and how that works,” Travers says. “That's a conversation we have in terms of being able to make sure that this would be successful for everybody.”
Asked how incremental credentials — including professional learning evaluations and credit for GF’s Level II training — fulfill GF’s corporate and employee needs, GF’s Tara McCaughey says, “Incremental credentials that can be stacked into a degree, professional learning evaluations and credit for workplace training are elements that remove the hurdle for employees wishing to return to school for an advanced degree. When education partners recognize the challenges of working adults by providing stackable courses, and recognize that employees have already learned on-the-job skills relevant to a degree, the employee benefits and the business benefits too. These employees can continue to work full-time while pursuing a shorter path to a degree, and at the same time the business benefits from the increased skills employees are bringing in, and increased employee engagement.”
McCaughey notes that expansion plans by GF and other semiconductor companies in the U.S. and globally “will depend on an increased pool of talent, with companies competing for the same talent. This will require multiple approaches to the talent pipeline. One focus will be on building even earlier into the education pipeline, showing middle schoolers and high schoolers the many career pathways into the industry, and inspiring elementary students to pursue STEM careers — these students today will be our future employees. We are leveraging our virtual resource, STEM@GF | GlobalFoundries, to help make those connections with students and schools.
“Additionally,” she says, “partnerships with education and government will be critical to spur an increase in students entering technical disciplines. What’s not often realized is that the semiconductor industry relies not just on engineers, but also heavily relies on those with hands-on mechanical skills, and we need to see more students entering those technical trade programs as well as engineering programs.”
This story was produced as part of the Higher Education Media Fellowship at the Institute for Citizens & Scholars. The fellowship supports new reporting into issues related to post-secondary career and technical education. For more information, visit citizensandscholars.org.