Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

CHIPS Act includes new support for workforce training, providing opportunities beyond R&D for higher education

By Tsu-Jae King Liu

A photo shows a researcher holding a silicon wafer. The researcher is wearing a lab coat, a face mask, and a hair net.

A photo shows a researcher holding a silicon wafer. The researcher is wearing a lab coat, a face mask, and a hair net.

President Joe Biden signed into law today the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, a bill designed to ensure America's leadership in chip technology innovation. The new law appropriates funding that incentivizes companies to manufacture semiconductor integrated circuits in the United States, and to bolster domestic microelectronics research and development (R&D). This is critical since microelectronics are a primary driver of economic growth and scientific advancement. Congressional leaders recognize that reshoring semiconductor manufacturing is critical to the nation’s long-term economic competitiveness and national security, as reflected by the bill’s bipartisan passage in the Senate with a 64-33 vote, and in the House with a 243-187 vote.

I am truly excited about this new bill because it affirms the important role of universities to supply the talent and innovation needed to fuel the growth of the U.S. semiconductor industry. The CHIPS programs are expected to create many tens of thousands of new jobs in semiconductor manufacturing and R&D over the next few years, mostly highly skilled engineer and technician roles. To fill these jobs, the number of graduates produced by the entire U.S. higher education system for this industry must more than double, an extraordinary increase in a short period of time. To meet this tremendous workforce development need, I have publicly advocated for the establishment of a national network for microelectronics education, first in an op-ed last December and subsequently at a hearing held by the House Research and Technology Subcommittee this February.

In parallel I have co-led a nationwide effort – the American Semiconductor Academy (ASA) initiative – to develop a vision for the national network, one that is inclusive and collaborative. In collaboration with industry representatives, and facilitated by a partnership with SEMI (a global industry association representing the electronics manufacturing and design supply chain), the ASA planning team produced a white paper that will be made public this week. As a direct result of these efforts, the new bill includes an appropriation of $200 million for the CHIPS for America Workforce and Education Fund. Through this fund, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is authorized to create a National Network for Microelectronics Education to promote growth of the semiconductor workforce.

While $200 million is a great start, much more is needed to strengthen and broaden pathways to careers in the U.S. microelectronics industry with the speed and scale necessary to meet the industry’s growing workforce development needs. For example, earlier this year, Intel announced a $100 million investment over the next 10 years to support research collaborations with universities, community colleges and technical educators across the country.

Berkeley Engineering will no doubt play a prominent role in the national network as well as in other CHIPS programs; details will emerge in the months and year ahead. Meanwhile, our nation’s investment in higher education is something we can celebrate today. We welcome all stakeholders to join us!

Related background:

  • Dean Liu among speakers at Aug. 18 CHIPS and Science Act event organized by Speaker Nancy Pelosi
  • Dean Liu testifies at House hearing on strengthening microelectronics workforce
  • Opinion: Facing chip shortage, U.S. must train semiconductor workforce (Dec. 1, 2021 op-ed published in The Mercury News)