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Intel Mask Operation

Intel Invests $100 Million to Bolster Chip Research, Education in U.S.

March 28, 2022
To help build a pipeline of new electrical engineers and semiconductor technicians, Intel is investing $100 million in new education and research opportunities in the U.S.

In a bid to regain its manufacturing prowess and compete in the contract chip-making business, Intel pledged to spend tens of billions of dollars to boost its production capacity, including at a sprawling new plant in Ohio. But it will need thousands of new engineers and other workers to staff the new factories.

To help build a pipeline of electrical engineers to design chips and technicians to run chip-making facilities, Intel is investing $100 million in new semiconductor education and research opportunities across the U.S.

The semiconductor giant plans to pour $50 million over the next 10 years into universities and other educational institutions throughout Ohio to train a new generation of workers to run its fabs and support research in the region. It is trying to nurture enough talent to help fill the expected 3,000 jobs at the massive manufacturing plant it intends to open in the state by 2025.

The U.S. is also pursuing ambitious plans to reinvigorate its semiconductor manufacturing might. Congress is on the verge of approving more than $50 billion in subsidies to persuade chip makers to build fabs in the U.S., lessening the sector’s dependence on chip foundries located on the other side of the world. The funds could also help companies fight future chip shortages that have choked the global economy since 2020.

But a tightening labor market—and more specifically, a shortage of workers with the specialized skills required to run fabs—could dampen America’s growth ambitions.

"Intel is on a mission to lead domestic chip capacity and capability growth, and for this, we need the very best talent available,” said Keyvan Esfarjani, the head of global manufacturing, supply chain, and operations at Intel. “Intel’s need for highly skilled talent can be felt in every element of our operation."

The company said it's using some of the Ohio funding to create the Intel Semiconductor Education and Research Program, which will award funds to researchers, technical centers, and educators for things such as training faculty, upgrading lab equipment, developing new curricula, and researching advances in chip manufacturing. It is also looking for proposals that would create student internships in the chip sector.

Cramming billions of tiny transistors onto a computer chip requires one of the most complex manufacturing processes in the world. A fully equipped fab costs more than $10 billion and takes three years or more to erect.

Modern fabs are among the most automated factories in the world. Still, every plant requires thousands of skilled workers, ranging from the production engineers that build, run, test, and upgrade chip production processes, to the technicians who monitor, repair, and install equipment in the facility. Other workers are responsible for logistics and support, ordering raw materials, and managing shipments, among other jobs. 

Intel said it would use the remaining $50 million to create semiconductor education programs at two-year colleges and four-year universities across the U.S. and support fundamental research into chips. The funds will be boosted by an additional $50 million in national grants from the National Science Foundation.

The partnership will award at least $5 million in grants per year for 10 years to fund educational programs. The objective, Intel said, is to build tighter bonds among academic researchers and early higher education. 

Another motivating factor for the investment is Intel's expanding footprint in the both U.S. and Europe, where the chip giant plans to spend $36 billion to increase its chip-making capacity.

For instance, in Arizona, Intel is investing $20 billion to build a pair of advanced chip-making plants. It is partnering with colleges and universities in the state to train a new generation of workers to help fill what it estimates will be 3,000 new jobs when the site opens. This month, Intel opened enrollment for a new two-week, community-college program called “Quick Start” to train students to become fab technicians.

“At Intel, we strongly believe that investing in education is necessary to ensure we have the right talent to support our growth and help the U.S. regain leadership in semiconductor manufacturing," said Intel’s Christy Pambianchi, executive vice president and chief people officer.

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