A researcher works in a clean room in a lab at the Case School of Engineering.
The chipmaker will look to schools like Case to fill a talent pipeline in Ohio.
Several weeks after unveiling plans for a $20 billion microchip manufacturing plant in central Ohio, Intel explained how it plans to staff the giant facility. On March 17, company executives announced a $50 million fund to help Ohio colleges and universities train the skilled workers it needs.
“At Intel, we strongly believe that investing in education is necessary to ensure we have the right talent to support our growth and help the U.S. regain leadership in semiconductor manufacturing,” Christy Pambianchi, Intel executive vice president and chief people officer, said in a statement.
“Our goal is to bring these programs and opportunities to a variety of two-year and four-year colleges, universities and technical programs,” she added, “because it is critical that we expand and diversify STEM education.”
That was welcome news at the Case School of Engineering.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Christian Zorman, MS ’91, PhD ’94, the Associate Dean for Research at CSE. He added that it raises a big question: “How can Case be relevant to the largest single economic develop proposal Ohio’s ever seen?”
Zorman represented Case at the announcement event at Columbus State Community College. He learned that Intel expects about 25 percent of the plant’s 3,000-person workforce to be engineers. Another 70 percent will be skilled technicians, and five percent of jobs will be unskilled.
The engineering roles span the field, he said, from chemical and mechanical engineers to materials scientists and physicists. Interestingly, computer scientists are not in high demand at a chipmaking plant.
“They’re the customers, the end users,” Zorman said. “This is a high-end manufacturing process, starting with sand.”
Ohio State University is seen in the best position for jobs and influence, owing to its size and proximity to the Intel complex. But Case faculty and Case students are familiar with manufacturing very small precision products—and Intel now knows it.
Two days before the Columbus gathering, Intel representatives visited Case. Zorman shared the school’s expertise in microsensors and nano-scale devices, explained relevant courses, and showed them several labs equipped with “clean rooms” that allow for microfabrication and research.
“They were like, ‘Wow, yep, this is definitely related,’ which is what I expected,” he said.
Now a deadline looms. Intel has given schools until May 31 to apply for a share of the Ohio fund, which complements a $100 million national research fund. It wants to hear plans for curriculums, programs and lab enhancements that can advance a chipmaking industry in Ohio.
Case will be ready with proposals, Zorman said, and ready for a new era. He noted CSE already sends graduates to similar jobs out of state. “Now, for the first time, we don’t have to point them south and west to do this kind of work.”