Maricopa Community Colleges helping to meet employment demands of semiconductor industry

The Maricopa Community College system is helping the state’s fast growing semiconductor sector ensure the talent pipeline remains full to meet employers’ demands.

Three colleges in the system are offering courses as part of the Semiconductor Quick Start program, which can prepare students for entry-level employment in the semiconductor industry in as little as two weeks or 40 hours. 

Students will learn about reading schematics, identifying and using hand tools, following safety protocols for clean rooms and personal protective equipment, and using vacuum systems. 

Courses are available at Estrella Mountain Community College, Chandler-Gilbert Community College, and Mesa Community College. Students who successfully complete the program receive a NIMS Semiconductor Certification.

“Manufacturing technicians are the heart and soul of manufacturing facilities,” said Lalitha Immaneni, the vice president and senior director for advanced design technology solutions at Intel. “To keep up with the demand of the manufacturing factories, it is very critical that we grow these skill sets in the industry. There is no end to career opportunities in this particular area.”

Intel is in the midst of a $20 billion expansion and the construction of two new fabrication plants in Chandler. 

“This program trains and prepares students to work on automated equipment at a semiconductor company,” said Ken Hackler, program director for the Automated Industrial Technology Program at Mesa Community College. “The class is 10 days. Somebody comes to the course, completes it, and they pass the certification test at the end, then the tuition is completely waived.”

Course completion also comes with the opportunity to interview at a semiconductor firm. Starting wages are competitive. Citing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the colleges say that Arizona leads the nation in pay for semiconductor processing technicians, with an average hourly wage of about $30 per hour and entry-level wages in the $20-$25 range. 

Intel is just one of several companies eyeing tremendous growth in the state. TSMC is constructing two chip plants in north Phoenix as part of a $40 billion investment. 

“These critical skills, knowledge, and abilities were identified through our collaboration with TSMC to prepare students for jobs like manufacturing technician and other positions that are responsible for helping to monitor wafer manufacturing processes, execute process analysis, and create collaborative solutions,” Paula Livingston told publication Valley Vibe. Livingston is the interim vice president for academic affairs at Estrella Mountain Community College.

In addition to the bootcamp-style Semiconductor Quick Start program, Maricopa Community Colleges also offers coursework leading to an associate in applied science degree in semiconductor manufacturing. “The Industrial Technology for the Semiconductor Industry Program accelerates the attainment of industry credentials for our students – opening doors for promising in-demand careers supporting our state and national economy,” MCC Interim President Lori Berquam said. “The program offers our current and future students an incredible opportunity to develop knowledge and skills.”

Tommy Logan

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