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Intel partners with Ohio colleges to develop future workforce

 Two people hold a metal plate in front of some machinery. They are wearing white suits, white hoods, surgical masks and gloves and goggles.
Corrie Mayer
University of Cincinnati
Students in UC's Mantei Center Cleanroom are getting their certification to work for computer chip companies like Intel.

Intel is trying to make sure it has the workforce it needs when it opens two semiconductor plants east of Columbus in 2025.

Initially the computer chip manufacturer says it will hire 3,000 employees making an average of $135,000. Down the road the operation could grow to eight plants on the 1,000-acre site in Licking County. The state says this largest single-private investment in Ohio has the potential to bring as many as 20,000 jobs to the area.

Because it needs to hire qualified people, Intel is paying eight institutions — which are leading more than 80 others — $17.7 million over three years. The money is for course development, equipment and the recruitment of underrepresented students who will become technicians and entry-level engineers. This is part of the company’s $50 million commitment to Ohio higher education over the next decade.

This Intel fact sheet explains what each consortium is doing.

The leading institutions are:
University of Cincinnati
Central State University
Columbus State Community College
Kent State University
Lorain County Community College
Ohio University
The Ohio State University

Programs vary

The University of Cincinnati's consortium created a rapid certification course. It's five classes, four hours each, mostly completed online. UC Associate Dean of Research Gautam Pillay says the certification is designed to augment both two- and four-year engineering degrees.

“How do you use silicone? What are the chemicals that you need? How do integrated circuit boards get made? What’s the process for doing that? What are the safety requirements? What ethics are involved in manufacturing, diversity, equity, inclusion, seeing things differently?” he says.

Some students finish this certification in as little as two weeks, others might take two months. Nathan Hernandez is getting his PhD at UC and found the course useful.

“I felt it was really nice groundwork to really get your foot into all of this and once you have that, I took a whole bunch of classes as well afterwards.”

Intel also plans to make high-paying chip-making jobs available to students with two-year engineering degrees.

Tom Looker is an associate professor of engineering at Edison State Community College in Piqua, part of UC's consortium.

“I think it’s potential that students here could get, you know, in the $110,000 - 130000 range with a two-year degree if they have the right experience,” says Looker.

Looker says his engineering technology students want to be as qualified as they can for Intel semiconductor jobs and others.

Business futurist praises Intel and Ohio for getting out in front

Investing now in its future workforce is a smart move for Intel, according to business futurist Marvin Dejean with Gilead Sanders. He says Ohio is setting itself up as a leader for other states to model by preparing students for the future.

“The future generation of workers are going to be perpetually learning, upskilling and reskilling all the time simply because the technology, the shift, the necessity of organizations to stay competitive. They’re going to require workers to constantly be ready and learn and pivot on a dime.”

Dejean says these students are learning a skill they can take anywhere the market is going for the next decade, be it autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things, personalized healthcare or artificial intelligence. Demand is only going to increase. Global chip manufacturing is expected to grow by fifty-six percent by 2030.