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$3M Grant Program to Train Mich. Students in Semiconductors

A grant program through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will bring scholarships, curricula and training programs to colleges to prepare students for careers along the semiconductor supply chain.

Female soldering a computer motherboard, microchips, semiconductors
(TNS) — To boost Michigan’s semiconductor workforce, the state wants to start in the classroom with a new $3 million grant program aimed at scholarships, curriculum, training models and early education engagement.

The state projects it will need to fill 30,000 jobs in the semiconductor industry by 2030. The semiconductor industry contributes $4.6 billion in total gross regional product for Michigan, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

A year ago, the MEDC launched an apprenticeship program using $1.5 million of federal funds from the CARES Act.

Now with $3 million from the MEDC budget, the new Semiconductor Talent Action Team brings state, business and educational leaders together to engage with Michigan’s students in hopes of them finding careers in state rather than leaving for job opportunities.

“[This will] customize, create and really up our game on recruitment strategies to retain more of our graduates,” said Kerry Ebersole Singh, Chief Talent Solutions & Engagement Officer at MEDC. “That is critical, especially as we look at increasing our population for our workforce age groups that we need to focus on for our state.”

The MEDC banded together seven higher education partners, 15 semiconductor employers and two industry associations. They’ve identified five key roles that will need more workers to meet Michigan’s projected job growth:

  • Computer engineers
  • Electrical engineers
  • Industrial/process engineers
  • Semiconductor processing technicians
  • Maintenance and repair workers

To fill these roles, the talent action team has a three-pronged approach.

New scholarships will be offered to university students already interested in these career paths and pursuing engineering degrees. The semiconductor scholarship will mirror an EV Scholars program that launched in March.

The state is offering $10,000 scholarships for students who accept job offers as electric engineers or software developers at 15 Michigan companies partnering with the state. To cash in, students must agree to stay in state for a full year. Undergraduates also have the opportunity to earn a $5,000 scholarship toward tuition if they are accepted to an EV Scholar internship.

The first cohort of 30 EV Scholars has been chosen from students at Michigan State, University of Michigan and Michigan Technological University, all of which accepted job offers from Michigan companies. The state received more than 200 applications to be part of the EV Scholars program, Ebersole Singh said.

The second approach is to increase Michigan’s curriculum and training programs to prepare college students for careers along the semiconductor supply chain.

Washtenaw Community College and Lansing Community College have been working with U of M and MSU to advance curriculums in place and add new programs tailored to semiconductor technicians, maintenance and repair workers. This includes a 10-day intensive bootcamp for technicians at LCC.

Earlier this month, Washtenaw Community College and U of M joined semiconductor company KLA and General Motors to launch a global semiconductor center in Michigan.

“One of the most important jobs that we have as a community college is to quickly train the current and future workforce and serve as an economic driver for our region, state and even nationally,” said Rose Bellanca, president of Washtenaw Community College.

“We do this by listening to industry to understand their needs and then partnering with them to customize programs.”

Michigan’s semiconductor workforce ranks among the top 10 in the nation, with job growth projected to grow by at least 11 percent in the next five years.

The third component of the Semiconductor Talent Action Team’s plan to meet this projected growth starts in Michigan’s schools, as early as pre-K up until senior year of high school.

There is already growing interest from younger age groups. Lansing Community College’s high school program for advanced manufacturing has tripled in size over the last year which prompted a request to add additional sections in machining and engineering, said Steve Robinson, president of Lansing Community College.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, an alum of U of M’s engineering school, said early engagement is what formed his pathway into the field.

“The reason I became a computer engineer is because I was exposed to engineering as a child, as a student in middle school and in high school,” he said. “We’re going to create those same exposure opportunities and pathways for young people across the state of Michigan to choose those careers in this robust and growing industry.”

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