Ohio State University preparing students to fill shortage in semiconductor workforce

The semiconductor industry's rapid growth aligns with the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act

Engineering faculty at The Ohio State University are taking proactive steps to address the shortage of skilled workers in the semiconductor industry as the U.S. sees record investment in the field of microelectronics.

At OSU's Nanotech West lab facility, students are already learning what it takes to create and assess their own semiconductors.

"I like being able to look down the road, and think about how I might be solving problems that require semiconductors," said Rachel Adams, Ph.D. candidate in engineering. "My research focuses on finding very small issues that exist in semiconductor materials, and finding out how to fix them. It’s exciting, there’s always going to be a need for the research that I’m interested in doing."

Students like Adams could soon be in high demand at companies like Intel, which has invested $20 billion in two new semiconductor fabrication plants in New Albany, Ohio. The plants are expected to begin production in 2025, and are expected to create more than 3,000 jobs for technicians and engineers.


At Ohio State's Nanotech West Lab, engineering students learn how to turn design, fabricate, and assess semiconductors. (Stephen Goin / Fox News)

However, experts have expressed concerns about the availability of a qualified workforce to fill jobs within the industry.

The semiconductor industry's rapid growth aligns with the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act in 2022, which has poured nearly $280 billion into U.S. semiconductors projects in efforts to reduce the nation's reliance on foreign countries for the chips found in almost everything electronic – from smartphones to cars. The act also included $39 billion in funding for new facilities. 

Across the country, manufacturers have already announced plans for new semiconductor infrastructure projects that could be partially funded with CHIPS Act subsidies. More than 50 new projects have been announced since the act was introduced, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association.

With that investment, thousands of new jobs are expected in the field of semiconductor manufacturing. 


A report by financial advisor Deloitte estimates that the U.S. semiconductor workforce will face a shortage of 70,000 to 90,000 professionals in the coming years. The Semiconductor Industry Association expects the pool of new jobs could be smaller – around 40,000 – but officials told Fox Business there are still concerns about filling that number.

student researcher looks at computer at Oho State

Intel committed $100 million to universities in 2022 to "address immediate semiconductor manufacturing technical challenges and workforce shortages" over the next decade. (Stephen Goin / Fox News)

"As the CHIPS investment comes online and we look at bringing manufacturing back to the United States in a substantial way, we find ourselves asking where are we going to find the construction workers to build those plants or the technicians and operators to staff them," said Shari Liss, the executive director of the SEMI Foundation, a nonprofit arm of SEMI, an association that represents electronics manufacturing companies. 

She continued: "In addition to that, the semiconductors and microelectronics industry is probably one of the most invisible industries out there in the technology world; so we compete for engineers just like everybody else."

To address these challenges, The Ohio State University Enterprise for Research, Innovation, and Knowledge (ERIK) has spearheaded efforts to establish partnerships between research universities, community colleges and grade schools to create pathways for students to join the semiconductor workforce.


Peter Mohler, interim Executive Vice President at ERIK, told Fox Business that Ohio State aims to lead the way in research as well as workforce development by giving students hands-on experience.

"A big component of this workforce development is experience learning; work that's being done at our Institute for Materials and Manufacturing Research takes students and exposes them to industry standard "clean rooms" and new forms of microelectronics, and being able to get hands-on experience in this field," Mohler said, adding that the university is also working to increase the number of students in enrolled in semiconductor-related programs.

student researchers conduct tests in Ohio State University lab

Experts say around 70% of semiconductor production jobs are going to be technical and will likely require an education from a technical school or community college. (Stephen Goin / Fox News)

Last year, Intel committed to a $100 million investment over the next decade to establish semiconductor manufacturing education and research collaborations. The company invested half of those funds directly to higher education institutions in Ohio.

Steven Ringel, Executive Director of Ohio State's Institute for Materials and Manufacturing Research (IMR), explained that investment is being used to revamp curriculum and scale the impact of programs at OSU.

"In the last year, the university has put together eight different minor and certificate programs that are open to people all across the university, and some of these programs are open to workers in the field who have already graduated," Ringel said, noting that Intel is funding "several large programs" at the university.


Ringel, who's also an engineering professor, told Fox Business that Ohio State is preparing a next-generation workforce that understands the complexities of semiconductor development, and could one day revolutionize the industry. 

"We need technicians, engineers, scientists, business folks, all sorts of people to advance this field, and we want to make sure that students here are able to be a part of that," Ringel said.