Even though thousands of semiconductor workers are being handed pink slips this summer in Silicon Valley, a new work-force initiative in San Jose, Calif., aims to avert what its backers say is a potential shortage of highly skilled job candidates once the current business slump ends.
Like other cooperatives around the United States, the non-profit Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network said it launched the initiative to address training needs for the future and to help find skilled workers needed today, despite the wave of layoffs at many chip makers and semiconductor capital-equipment suppliers. The program, backed by some of the world's largest chip and production equipment manufacturers, is sponsoring a special enrollment program, starting July 21, for new training courses at local community and private colleges.
"The vision of the new work-force initiative is for Silicon Valley to successfully grow and sustain a world-class work force," said Kay Mascoli, director of the program. "We have fertile ground here for great jobs; we need to better connect our youth and re-careering adults with the education they need to get these jobs, and continuously invest in lifelong learning. We want to better leverage the talent and resources of the people who already live here." Mascoli is being assisted in running the initiative by co-chairs Neil Bonke, retired chairman of Electroglas, and Bob Caret, president of San Jose State University.
The initiative has formed a unique collaboration among regional colleges and the semiconductor and equipment and materials industries, called the Semiconductor Industry Education Partnership, to fill immediate job openings and increase the number of manufacturing technicians available to chip and fab-tool suppliers.
Manufacturing technicians are high on the list of concerns at companies, especially because of the changes expected in wafer-processing plants during the transition to larger wafer sizes and finer device geometries. Silicon Valley chip and equipment companies are predicting they will need at least 3,000 new technicians over the next two to three years.
Consequently, community colleges that traditionally compete for students are pooling their resources in the partnership, said the initiative. Participants include San Jose City community colleges; Mission College, Santa Clara, Foothill College, Los Altos Hills; Gavilan College, Gilroy; Ohlone College, Fremont; and College of San Mateo in San Mateo. Private schools participating in the program are Heald College and DeVry's Institute of Technology.
"Competitors such as Intel and National Semiconductor both realize that the labor market is so tight they needed to drop their differences and come to the table to help us find ways to train future workers," Bonke said. More than 15 semiconductor, capital equipment and materials suppliers are in the partnership, including Applied Materials, Hewlett-Packard, Lam Research, Integrated Device Technology, KLA-Tencor, Electroglas, Advanced Micro Devices and Ultratech Stepper.