Detroit Regional Chamber > Automotive & Mobility > Michigan invests $1.5 million in semiconductor job pipeline

Michigan invests $1.5 million in semiconductor job pipeline

May 25, 2022
Lindsey Moore
May 24, 2022

Michigan is investing $1.5 million to push the state forward as a leader in the semiconductor workforce.

Support for a new semiconductor technician apprenticeship program was approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund using CARES funds.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has been looking for creative ways to use workforce planning funds, said Kerry Ebersole Singh, MEDC chief talent and solutions and engagement officer.

“This really is an opportunity for us to build out a pipeline of talent specific to the semiconductor industry,” she said. “This really is going to help us stand out as a state by developing one of the first in the nation apprenticeship programs.”

The Semiconductor Career and Apprenticeship Network (SCAN) Program will have two phases.

The first being a focus on the workforce ecosystem by engaging key microelectronics employer partners, end users in the auto and manufacturing space, educational partners, and key workforce development partners.

The second phase will focus on customization through conducting extensive discovery and focus groups with employers to confirm job roles, skills, and competencies needed to successfully build and diversify a robust and knowledgeable incoming workforce.

Michelle Williams Vaden, deputy director of the SEMI Foundation leading the program, said the apprenticeship model will further economic mobility by “upskilling” the workforce. The goal is that this pipeline will sustain growth in a high-demand industry.

“Our industry’s current workforce shortage is allowing us to make unprecedented efforts in creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce and to provide economic mobility to individuals who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

Michigan is stepping forward to assert its auto legacy in the technology sector. In a statement about the apprenticeship, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Michigan is poised to support the semiconductor industry because of its long history and deep knowledge on the customer end.

The state is home to nearly one-fifth of U.S. auto production — more than any other state in the nation — and has the greatest concentration of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) in the country, with 26 having headquarters or technology centers in the state, according to the statement.

“Michigan is one of only three states that will be launching planning work to define curricula to support employers in the semiconductor industry,” Whitmer said. “With this new apprenticeship program, along with our global manufacturing and automotive R&D leadership, we are leading the charge in addressing the universal industry demand for semiconductors while creating good-paying jobs for Michiganders.”

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Township) has led a congressional subcommittee looking for solutions to the semiconductor shortage. Most recently, Peters brought the conversation to Detroit inviting economic, union and semiconductor manufacturers.

Peters and Whitmer joined the chorus of support for the CHIPS Act sitting in Congress. The CHIPS Act would fund $52 billion in incentives to boost domestic semiconductor production and research, $2 billion of which would be dedicated to incentivizing the production of the “mature node” semiconductors used by automakers and parts suppliers.

While the U.S. is the global leader in semiconductor R&D and chip design it outsources nearly all of the manufacturing.

The vast majority of global chip production is in East Asia. In 1990, the U.S. had 37% of the global chip manufacturing share. Today that number has dropped to 12%, according to the 2021 Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) report.

To bring production back, the SIA report points to highly skilled engineering talent and a thriving innovation ecosystem, particularly from leading universities.

The Michigan Integrated Circuits Laboratory at the University of Michigan has become a global institute for semiconductor training. The university drew attention from semiconductor manufacturing KLA Corporation which set up its second headquarters in Ann Arbor.

Also in state is Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation, the largest producer of polysilicon needed to make chips, and SK Siltron, a new semiconductor wafer manufacturing and R&D facility in Bay City.

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