The Skills Gap and CHIPS

The CHIPS and Science Act is sending billions of dollars across the nation to ramp up semiconductor production in the U.S. There’s one problem: a lack of qualified workers.

Manufacturing already faces an ongoing labor shortage made worse by the pandemic. Work in the semiconductor field in particular is in even more trouble because the jobs require specific skills and the field is not well known. Older workers don’t already have the skills, and students don’t know enough about the subject to choose the relevant courses of study, like material science and microelectronics.

People with the advanced training and skills required may not choose manufacturing. For one thing, related industries like software development often offer higher salaries and better work-life balance, making chip production less competitive in attracting talent. Semiconductor factories are also often located in remote areas, posing challenges for potential workers in terms of access to amenities and living options.

Many people, especially younger generations, are unaware of the exciting and intellectually stimulating opportunities within the semiconductor industry. The industry tends to have lower visibility compared to other tech sectors. Concerns about working in cleanrooms, potentially hazardous materials, and long hours can also deter some individuals from seeking chip production jobs.

What’s more, grads from the appropriate fields are often foreign-born, and getting worker visas can be difficult. With a presidential election coming up, immigration is a hot-button issue in many communities, and this can get in the way of finding and hiring skilled engineers.


In Phoenix, a community college is offering a 10-day course, free to everyone who passes the class, to prepare workers for the job. The training includes practice in doing basic tasks while wearing clean room suits

It seems as though a job that people can train for in a couple of weeks should be able to train workers either on the job or in short-term programs, but just 50 U.S. community colleges currently offer this type of training, and it usually lasts for years, not weeks. Many of the jobs in the field actually require degrees like Bachelor’s Degree in Material Science and Engineering, or Applied Physics with emphasis in fields like Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.

Providing adequate training and reskilling programs for existing workers, as well as promoting STEM education to future generations, can take time and investment.

These factors combine to create a complex challenge for the semiconductor industry in finding and retaining skilled workers. However, several initiatives are underway to address the talent shortage. These include increased industry collaboration, government investments in STEM education and workforce development, and efforts to improve the public image of the semiconductor industry.

By addressing these challenges and taking proactive steps, the industry can work towards securing the skilled workforce it needs to continue driving innovation and technological advancements.