May 7, 2024

Phoenix's semiconductor hiring is slow despite federal investment

The government is spending billions to support semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S. But trainees seeking chipmaking jobs may have to wait.

 Semiconductor Technician Quick Start training course Students in the Semiconductor Technician Quick Start training course at Mesa Community College practice while wearing “bunny suits,” the required workwear at fabrication plants.
Maria Hollenhorst /Marketplace

This story originally aired on “Marketplace” on May 2.

As part of “Marketplace’s” ongoing series Breaking Ground, which examines how trillions of federal dollars are changing government's role in the economy in complicated, invisible and sometimes contradictory ways, we’ve been exploring the impact of the CHIPS and Science Act on Phoenix, Arizona.

In 2022, the Joe Biden administration made a $52.7 billion bet on the semiconductor industry by passing the CHIPS Act, saying it will “revitalize domestic manufacturing” and create “good-paying American jobs.”

So far, that bet seems to be paying off. Intel, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Samsung and others have announced investments in American semiconductor production on the promise of CHIPS Act funding.

The semiconductor industry estimates that up to 70,000 workers will be needed to operate the new chip factories. To fill some of that demand, the industry has partnered with colleges and universities to help train the semiconductor workforce of the future.

But right now, as CHIPS Act money rolls out amid the multiyear factory construction process, hiring is slow.

“Marketplace” host Kai Ryssal and Heather Long, a Washington Post columnist and “Marketplace” contributor, visited an evening class at Mesa Community College that aims to get students entry-level jobs in chipmaking.

The 10-day Quick Start program was created in partnership with companies in the industry, including TSMC and Intel. The students we met there hoped this course would change their lives. But when we checked back a month later, those same students were struggling to find jobs.

Click the audio player above to hear the story.

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