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MTU awarded $838,000 grant for semiconductor education, training programs

HOUGHTON, Mich. — The Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) announced today an $838,000 grant to Michigan Technological University (MTU) that will support a major expansion of semiconductor education and training programs across the Upper Peninsula while responding to Michigan’s increased demand for skilled technicians and engineering professionals in the semiconductor industry.

“Michigan is not only among the first states in the nation with a consortium that has successfully identified the key skills and competencies employers need to drive future microchip industry development,” said MEDC Executive Vice President and Chief Talent Solutions & Engagement Officer Kerry Ebersole Singh. “Michigan also is among the nation’s leading states to deliver workforce solutions that help employers in real-time.

“I’m delighted Michigan Tech is going to build upon that foundation of achievement,” Ebersole Singh said. “Our state’s future depends on retaining and bringing new talent to the state, which is why Michigan has launched the largest state talent attraction campaign and effort in the U.S. – so anyone can ‘make it in Michigan.'”

Using its $838,000 grant from the state, MTU plans to introduce Flexible Semiconductor Technician and Maintenance Micro-Credentials programming through a two-tiered approach.

The first model will be the creation of stackable micro-credentials short training courses to educate and strengthen the semiconductor advanced test, assembly and packaging technician workforce in the domestic ecosystem. The topics of these courses will include professional-level skills such as clean room operations, standard operating procedure development and understanding safety data sheets and troubleshooting as well as performing advanced work on wafer and panel-based approaches, tooling and automation, substrate technology and heterogeneous integration.

These courses will be offered in both short, intensive (one day or more) and longer models (a week or more), depending on the topic and the needs of the semiconductor client. The hybrid mode will allow participants to complete a majority of the instruction online. Some courses will require that participants continue with clean room and laboratory work experience through industry/university partners. Both the online and hybrid training will be available through the Michigan Tech Global Campus.

In the second model, MTU will offer summer programming sessions consisting of multiple one-week programs. These will allow participants to actively engage in semiconductor technician and maintenance personnel work experiences. Participants will immediately immerse themselves in the substrate production environment and learn the desired skill sets, ensuring a rich, valuable and timely learning experience. Flexibility is built into this program due to the short, intense time frame options being offered throughout summer.

“To generate a skilled and retainable technician and maintenance workforce for Michigan’s semiconductor industry, the state needs innovative, flexible training models for people with various levels of semiconductor expertise as well as untrained individuals who are eager to seek careers in the rapidly growing semiconductor industry,” said MTU College of Engineering Dean Audra Morse.

MTU’s anticipated target audience includes job seekers from underrepresented communities and different industry partner worksites, displaced workers, veterans, certificate seekers, graduating associate degree students and graduating/near graduating high school students.

The university’s workforce partners include intermediate school districts, charter schools, community colleges, Veterans Affairs offices and the Upper Peninsula Michigan Works! agencies. MTU’s initial employer partners are Calumet Electronics, Gentex Corp., Dow and Hawk Semiconductor, with others to be determined moving forward.

MTU estimates that the dual learning models will initially attract 50 participants from targeted population and demographics groups, then grow to include 100 student summer participants completing weekly certificate programs beginning in spring/summer of 2024.

MTU projects its professional micro-credentials model will expand to 100 certificate seekers by 2025 and increase to as many as 200 by 2026 and beyond. The university estimates as many as 200 students annually will enroll in the summer weekly programs.

Learning will occur online, in person at MTU and/or on-site at various industrial partners. The chosen physical locations beyond MTU’s campus will reside in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, an economically depressed region located within Ojibwa (Chippewa) homelands, and/or at industrial partner sites across the state.

In addition, MTU is launching a Back-End Semiconductor Curriculum for Advanced Substrates, Assemblies, Packaging and Testing program.

Current and forthcoming advanced semiconductor products are only realized with knowledgeable personnel skilled in advanced packaging; with MEDC’s funding support, MTU will expand and create semiconductor curricula and flexible training models specifically within the field of advanced semiconductor substrates, assemblies, packaging and testing. MTU’s goal is to jump-start career paths to these in-demand job roles.

MTU currently offers advanced substrate engineering through design, fabrication, and testing. However, the program has been limited by space, support personnel, and equipment. For example, only 18 students (sophomore level for exposure awareness) can be enrolled within a single semester. MTU’s expanded program will provide necessary resources to increase this number to 72 students across two semester offerings per year. 

Additional infrastructure and personnel will also enable the semiconductor curriculum to be run throughout the summer to K-12 students, thus acting as both outreach and recruitment into either semiconductor professional careers or semiconductor technician training programs.

Students in this program will have hands-on advanced semiconductor substrate laboratory experiences combined with invited external speakers from the semiconductor ecosystem. Using the advanced substrate curriculum development as a model, an advanced semiconductor assembly, packaging and testing curriculum (wafer testing, dicing, bonding, metrology, interposers, and quilt packaging) will be built to provide additional semiconductor industry exposure levels, which are necessary to attract and retain a semiconductor workforce within Michigan.

MTU anticipates this program will appeal to K-12 students and students pursuing careers as electrical engineers, computer engineers, chemical engineers and process engineers. The university’s workforce partners will include high school and community college partners statewide in underrepresented areas for promotion of the semiconductor-specific curriculum, while employer partners will include the same companies: Calumet Electronics, Gentex Corp, Dow, Hawk Semiconductor, with more employers to be determined moving forward.

“This groundbreaking collaboration between the MEDC and Michigan Tech in the advanced package and semiconductor ecosystem represents an unparalleled and powerful partnership, uniting state governance, private industry, and academia. Together, we form a dynamic coalition propelling Michigan with unwavering determination towards unprecedented heights in this pivotal sector of both our state and national economies and security,” said Dr. Meredith LaBeau, Chief Technology Officer of Calumet Electronics.

“This momentous announcement not only marks a significant milestone but also opens a gateway to a paramount opportunity for Michigan. In this very instance, we find ourselves at a crossroads, presenting a distinctive and time-sensitive opportunity to establish our dominance as the epicenter for the semiconductor education ecosystem,” Dr. LaBeau said.

“This is not just a moment; it’s a critical juncture for our state. Now is the opportune moment to proudly stake our claim as the nucleus of innovation and progress,” she added. “We must embrace a far-reaching vision and demonstrate an unwavering commitment to nurturing and developing vital industries on our home turf for the next three to four decades. Our endeavors today are laying the foundation for a prosperous and enduring future, shaping Michigan into a beacon of innovation, sustainability, and economic security. This is not merely a declaration of intent; it is an action plan that solidifies our dedication to securing Michigan’s position as a global leader.”

MTU forecasts this program serving 72 college undergraduates in the 2023-2024 school year, as well as 88 high school students (22 students for two-week intensive summer workshops). Classes will occur In-person at MTU along with in-person laboratory experience, hybrid remote learning, project-based learning, and exposure to semiconductor facilities.

MTU expects to support the launch of its semiconductor training programs with a marketing campaign and recruitment strategies to promote awareness of the new career and education opportunities.

“Our goal is to be one of the leading educational institutions in America in semiconductor programming,” Morse said. “Our focus is to provide accessible and industry-relevant training and knowledge to equip our students with the skills necessary to excel in these high-demand, high-paying sectors. This new opportunity will be adapted by MTU to build a world-class talent pipeline to meet the semiconductor industry’s needs now and in the future.”

“The MEDC grant announcement to Michigan Technological University is just one example of the many ways we are working to ensure that the Michigan workforce has the skills necessary to transition to the technologies and industries of tomorrow,” said MEDC Higher Education Partnerships Director Avazeh Attari. 

“The Great Lakes State is recognized as a national leader for innovation by launching the largest-ever campaign in state history to promote careers, recruit talent and attract new businesses to fill jobs in Michigan’s thriving semiconductor industry,” said Attari.

The MEDC is investing a total of more than $3.6 million statewide in 2023 grants and matching funds with higher education institutions to promote semiconductor learning and career opportunities.

Funds directed toward semiconductor education and training expansion efforts include $1.1 million for Wayne State University, $838,000 for Michigan Technological University, $625,000 for Delta College in Bay City, more than $320,00 for Oakland University, $300,000 for Lansing Community College, $150,000 for Washtenaw Community College, $148,000 for Michigan State University, and over $140,000 for the University of Michigan.

Michigan’s semiconductor workforce ranks among the top 10 in the nation, with job growth of at least 11% projected in the next five years. Michigan also ranks among the top states in the nation for semiconductor manufacturing, with industry jobs growing 12% between 2015-2020.

In Fall 2022, the state announced the creation of the Semiconductor Talent Action Team, an innovative partnership with private industry and academia that is helping grow Michigan’s semiconductor talent ecosystem and positioning the state to grow its prominence in this global sector. Learn more about how Michigan is leading the semiconductor industry.

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