News Release

Arizona State University expands microelectronics workforce development opportunities

New courses for non-degree learners designed to meet industry demand for talent

Reports and Proceedings

Arizona State University

TSMC chip fabrication in Phoenix

image: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is building the first of two chip fabrication facilities, shown under construction above, in north Phoenix. Meanwhile, Intel Corp. is investing $20 billion for two new fabrication sites at its campus in Chandler, Arizona. The demand for talent to enable such dramatic expansion has inspired Arizona State University’s new online microelectronics training portfolio. view more 

Credit: Arizona State University

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Responding to market forces created by the federal CHIPS and Science Act and Arizona’s New Economy Initiative, Arizona State University has launched a new microelectronics portfolio for those seeking to enter the semiconductor field.

Driven by commercial demand for a bigger talent pipeline and new ways to educate prospective workers, ASU leadership and faculty have worked with industry to design a portfolio that provides technical skills critical for microelectronics professionals. Learners gain exposure to materials, tools, design, applications, manufacturing processes and packaging — all the fundamental elements in one place. Plus, the approach will enable learners to stack credentials into different pathways that support their career and personal development.

“We are seeking to close a talent gap that is challenging the rapid growth of the semiconductor space,” said Terry Alford, a professor of materials science and engineering at Arizona State University and a primary designer of the content.

“So, this collection of coursework represents something very exciting,” Alford said. “It extends our very significant curricular resources to serve a broad array of people who are not enrolled in a conventional university program but who have something to offer, and a lot to gain, from joining the growth of the semiconductor industry in Arizona.”

When complete, nine topical specializations offered through the microelectronics portfolio will include:

  • Materials Science for Technological Applications
  • Materials Science for Advanced Technological Applications
  • Additive Manufacturing Processes
  • Industrial Automation
  • Rapid Prototyping and Tooling
  • Rapid Prototyping Using 3D Printing
  • Battery Technologies
  • Introduction to Semiconductor Packaging
  • Introduction to Semiconductor Characterization

Each specialization can be completed through 35 to 40 hours of interactive instruction and assessment led by senior university engineering faculty as well as industry experts. Learners who do so gain greater opportunities for employment and access to further education.

With more than 30,000 enrolled students, including more than 7,000 in degree programs that will prepare them for a career in the semiconductor manufacturing industry, ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering has grown to be the largest in the country. Industry leaders like Intel, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), ON Semiconductor and many others will need these talented engineering graduates, but workforce requirements also include skilled employees who do not have a four-year degree.

“We need technicians—generally between three and five of them for each engineer’s role,” said Alford. “So, the new microelectronics portfolio can help meet that demand by upskilling people who are, for example, just finishing their associate degree with a community college or who are already serving in a mid-skill position in a technical field. This program can support their entry into semiconductor manufacturing and related equipment manufacturing, wherever they are in their life trajectory.”

Available this month, the first two specializations in the portfolio teach materials science for technological applications. Content focuses on key concepts in atom bonding, crystal structure, diffusion and phase diagrams as well as metals, polymers, ceramics and composites. Instruction occurs through short video courses that include sessions for learner practice and assessments with feedback. 

Additional specializations include an introduction to semiconductor packaging. Fundamental topics are taught by senior engineering faculty from ASU, while central aspects of packaging architecture and manufacturing are taught by multiple experts from Intel Corporation.

The new portfolio has been developed by the Fulton Schools’ Office of Global Outreach and Extended Education in collaboration with the ASU CareerCatalyst team for job skills development within the university’s Learning Enterprise. The array of specializations is delivered through the Coursera online course platform for broad accessibility and affordability.

“With recent public and private investments to catalyze the semiconductor industry, manufacturers need a skilled workforce to support growth,” said Meredyth Hendricks, head of ASU CareerCatalyst. “ASU is actively working with leading semiconductor companies to identify their current and future talent needs and build career education programs that prepare the semiconductor workforce with critical job skills.”

While the new microelectronics specializations draw directly from the expertise behind ASU’s leading undergraduate and graduate engineering programs, they also extend other innovative efforts that the university has created to serve the semiconductor industry.

One example is the Certificate in Semiconductor Processing program launched by the Fulton Schools. The 15-credit, graduate-level course framework provides professional training in multiple aspects of chip production. At its core are three courses: Advanced Silicon Processing, an electrical engineering course; Design Engineering Experiments, an industrial engineering course; and Advanced Materials Characterization, a materials science and engineering course.

The combination helps students build their practical understanding of semiconductor fabrication work. And beyond these core courses, certificate program participants choose two electives from among 11 options. Doing so makes the most of their current knowledge as graduate students and supports the development of areas in which they want or need additional depth.

“The result is an understanding of the terminology and fundamentals of the semiconductor manufacturing process to a level that enables immediate engagement with colleagues at a factory and the ability to get work done well,” said Alford.


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