The SEMI Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the SEMI industry association that cultivates growth, drives connections, and provides advocacy, is front and center when it comes to workforce development. Its programs span from grade school awareness initiatives to efforts to reskill and upskill incumbent workers. Part of the challenge, according to Shari Liss, the foundation’s executive director, is the need to shift perceptions of the industry and bring greater awareness of the career opportunities available. This is, after all, a $500+ billion global industry that accounts for 1.25 million jobs in the U.S. alone.
“Students, even in Silicon Valley, know their devices, software, social media, but semiconductors are a more invisible component of STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] work,” Liss said. “If I find students who know about the industry, there’s a very limited understanding of what types of jobs the industry provides.”
Liss and her team have been working on ways to reshape the narrative around the chip industry to highlight how exciting it is to be a part of a workforce that is creating new ways for us to connect, collaborate, communicate, and much more. She also notes that there’s opportunity to better promote cultures of inclusion and diversity, noting: “Students really want to see themselves in a place where they belong.”
One of the SEMI Foundation’s most ambitious efforts to date is its partnership with the American Semiconductor Academy (ASA) to build a comprehensive workforce development program that strengthens workforce education and training programs across the nation. The organizations aim to connect 200 universities and community colleges to more than 1,500 SEMI member companies (including Synopsys) with operations in the U.S. These entities can collaborate to ensure that students are learning what they need to be productive contributors to the industry, help develop a diverse talent pipeline, and foster R&D partnerships to enhance technology transfer.