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Semiconductor Industry Association Roundtable: Industry and Academic Partnerships for the Technical Semiconductor and Microelectronics Industry

Remarks as prepared.

My thanks to SIA for hosting today, and to the planning committee for organizing this roundtable to highlight the critical need for STEM talent in the semiconductor industry, and convening a stellar group of thought leaders to address the issue.  

Congress and the Administration placed a big bet on scientific and technological leadership for the U.S. when they passed the CHIPS for America Act in August of 2022. The CHIPS Act will maintain, regain, and — in some areas, build for the first time — leadership and capacity in semiconductor technologies in the U.S. All of this is in light of a very complex and rapidly changing global economy. The CHIPS for America program is moving rapidly, too, and has had an intense year of milestones and accomplishments. And we can feel the entire semiconductor sector rallying around the goals of the CHIPS Act. For example, chipmakers have committed to more than $200 billion dollars of investments in facilities on American soil, and those investments began well before the recipients of CHIPS Program incentives have been announced.  

For those of you new to CHIPS for America, let me take a moment to describe the program. Many of us felt the consequences of semiconductor shortages early in the Covid 19 pandemic. Production of some consumer goods, like new cars, had to be halted. Beyond the pain to consumers, the chip shortage exposed us to national security risks, because critical infrastructure ranging from jet fighters to power plants to health care rely on semiconductors. The CHIPS Act seeks to protect our economic and national security, and to establish the U.S. as a long-term leader in the semiconductor sector.  

In CHIPS, Congress created a $39 billion incentives program intended to jump-start semiconductor manufacturing in this country, and an $11 billion program for research and development. The CHIPS Act also funds programs at agencies including the Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation, among others. The incentives program will provide direct funding, loans, and loan guarantees for facilities. The R&D program will oversee four closely integrated programs to make access to design tools and prototyping and technical facilities within reach for innovators from across the semiconductor sector.  

The National Institute for Standards and Technology was chosen to oversee the $50 billion CHIPS for America program because of our familiarity with the science of semiconductors and history of collaboration with the sector. In fact, our strategy for implementing CHIPS has been informed by extensive engagement with semiconductor industry leaders and experts in academia; nonprofits; local, state and federal government; public-private entities; national security entities; labor leaders; and international partners and allies. 

The development of a well-trained and qualified workforce is top of mind for everyone we spoke with. America needs construction workers to build fabrication facilities and technicians and engineers to run them. The semiconductor supply chain needs chemists, materials scientists, machinists, engineers, and many more specialists to keep the sector staffed. That is why workforce is a priority for all of the CHIPS for America programs.  

The bad news, as many of you know, is that we are experiencing an unusually tight labor market. There are too few workers for the job openings we have. Again, that’s before CHIPS for America has awarded any incentives. 

The good news is that growth in the U.S. semiconductor sector means hundreds of thousands of good job opportunities that can lift whole communities, even entire regions. But it is incumbent upon us to attract people to those jobs, eliminate barriers that keep people from completing training programs and entering the workforce, and pay good wages and provide pathways to upward mobility so that we retain valued workers.  

For CHIPS to succeed, these opportunities must be open to everyone. Inclusion is a core value of CHIPS for America. Inclusion is a win-win-win.  

Making the economy work for all citizens by expanding access to good jobs is the right thing to do. That’s a win for Americans. 

We also know that work groups with more diversity are more creative and effective. That’s a win for employers and research groups — and for American innovation and entrepreneurship 

And we know that to muster all the people needed to staff the semiconductor sector, we must attract more people from underserved communitiesincluding women, people of color, veterans, persons with disabilities, and rural populations with education and training programs and wrap-around services to support the most vulnerable populations. That’s a win for everyone.  

You may be wondering how this works in practice. First, the CHIPS Incentives Program requires applicants to submit long-term workforce development strategies in concert with community partners. Applicants must account for employee attraction, retention, and upskilling, and use earn and learn models.  

Second, CHIPS for America is aligning its workforce strategy with a vision for thriving regional clusters that create productive, efficient, and self-sustaining ecosystems, and that improve regional economic resilience and support a robust semiconductor ecosystem. For workforce, that means we seek to incentivize shared regional strategies. Our programs strongly encourage co-investment by state and local government and regional philanthropies in workforce development. Our upcoming small supplier incentive opportunity, for example, will encourage consortia models with an important role for state and local government cluster partners to coordinate workforce collaborations. 

Third, we are embracing a whole-of-government approach to ensure that the U.S. has every possible resource at the table. That includes the important role of collaboration with our partners at the National Science Foundation; the Departments of Defense, Education, and Labor; and the Subcommittee for Microelectronics Leadership. The Department of Commerce is committed to working alongside our interagency partners to ensure that our collective investments have maximum impact. 

Workforce development is at the core of the CHIPS R&D Programs, too, which you will hear more about from Lora Weiss in a moment.  

Just as CHIPS for America has led to companies already committing to make products in on our shores, CHIPS has already catalyzed significant new activity across the country to grow and sustain a skilled and diverse semiconductor workforce.  

Since the passage of the CHIPS Act in August 2022, at least 50 community colleges across 17 states have announced new or expanded programming to support opportunities in the semiconductor industry.  

U.S. students are demonstrating increasing interest in the growing semiconductor roles. Data from the job platform Handshake shows that student applications to full-time jobs posted by semiconductor companies were up 79% in 2022-2023, compared to just 19% for other industries. Applications from core tech majors — the talent pool this industry most needs to fill expected skills shortages — increased by 168%. Internship applications followed a similar trend. 

But we cannot rest. Just as the space race inspired a generation of physicists and engineers, we must inspire young people and career changers to make the microelectronics upon which our economy and security rely. We have to get out the word about earn and learn models like Registered Apprenticeships and stackable credentials that get people involved in engaging work even as they are training.  

Now that I have teed up all the hard work ahead of us, let me take a moment to celebrate how far CHIPS has come in the last year. 

We continue to accept applications for incentives for the construction of commercial leading-edge, current, and mature node fabrication facilities. That funding opportunity, the first from CHIPS, was announced on February 28 of this year.  

On June 23, we expanded that opportunity to include semiconductor materials and equipment facility projects over $300 million. 

To learn more about those funding announcements, please visit 

We expect two more funding opportunities: One later this summer for semiconductor materials and equipment facility projects under $300 million, and another later in the year to support the construction of semiconductor R&D facilities. 

The CHIPS Research and Development Office recently announced the formation of a selection committee that will choose members of the board of trustees for the National Semiconductor Technology Center, which Lora will tell you more about.  

In fact, CHIPS R&D recently announced a slate of senior leaders. Richard-Duane Chambers will oversee policy and strategy coordination, workforce, interagency integration, and international relationships and standards. Marla Dowell will direct the CHIPS Metrology R&D Program. Jay Lewis will provide federal executive leadership of the NSTC. Eric Lin, who has led CHIPS R&D as interim director will stay on as deputy director.  

And Lora Weiss had just been named the director of CHIPS R&D. Lora comes to CHIPS from Penn State, where she served as senior vice president for research and oversaw the research of 12 academic colleges, seven interdisciplinary research institutes, the Applied Research Lab, and offices for sponsored programs, research protections, industry partnerships, technology transfer, innovation, economic development, and commercialization. Lora is an accomplished scientist and educator with more than 30 years of experience in higher education. Lora and I have both navigated male-dominated STEM fields and organizations. I know that she shares my passion for helping people meet their full potential and for diversity, equity, and inclusion 

With that, I welcome Lora to the podium. 

Created August 18, 2023