PBS NewsHour Features Rio Salado Semiconductor Training Program for Veterans


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Tuesday, June 25, 2024
PBS NewsHour film crew in class with teacher and instructor

PBS NewsHour films a semiconductor class with Rio Salado Faculty Chair of STEM Initiatives Rick Vaughn.

As the semiconductor manufacturing industry is booming in the United States, one crucial gap remains: not enough skilled workers. Schools in Arizona, including Rio Salado College, are working to fill this need. Those efforts were the premise of a PBS NewsHour piece that aired nationwide on June 11, 2024:  “How Arizona is building the workforce to manufacture semiconductors in the U.S.”

The 8-minute segment featured Rio Salado College’s Microelectronics and Nanomanufacturing Certificate program (MNCP), created nearly two years ago through a partnership with Penn State’s College of Engineering Center for Nanotechnology and Utilization, and Arizona State University (ASU).

Penn State received a National Science Foundation grant to educate two cohorts of students each year in the semiconductor industry. The program, which is free for students, is available to military veterans and their family members who are looking to transition into new careers.

“The CHIPS Act, passed in 2022, has led to a surge in funding for semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S. and a real demand for qualified workers,” Amna Nawaz, PBS NewsHour broadcaster said as the news story starts. “These chips power everything from our phones and cars to advanced fighter jets and artificial intelligence. Now some colleges and universities are trying to help fill those jobs and create the workforce of the future.”

Rio Salado STEM Initiatives Faculty Chair Dr. Rick Vaughn discussed the college and Maricopa Community College District programs with PBS NewsHour reporter Stephanie Sy, who visited Rio Salado, ASU, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), and Intel in Chandler in April.

Vaughn highlighted the opportunities coming with the new TSMC plant in the West Valley, the Intel facility in the East Valley, and other companies entering the semiconductor field.

“The Microelectronics and Nanomanufacturing Certificate program offers a unique opportunity for military and veteran students to enter this growing field,” Vaughn said. “We're excited to continue empowering students with the skills needed to thrive in the semiconductor industry.”

The 12-week, non-credit veteran MNCP program not only gives students in-person and online lessons, but also hands-on experiences through lab visits at ASU and tours of local companies - some of the same ones looking to hire students in the future.

“The more that you can meet the student where they're at to give them those flexible learning opportunities, the better you are to appeal to not just the general population, but specifically to those diverse populations,” Vaughn said.

The news piece also featured Rio Salado semiconductor students Jessica Hoover, one of a small handful of women who have completed the semi-conductor program with the college, and Daniel Moreno, a U.S. Army veteran from the MNCP spring 2024 cohort.

“This PBS NewsHour piece highlights our commitment to prepare students for careers in semiconductor manufacturing,” Rio Salado College President Kate Smith said. “This segment underscores the vital role of our Microelectronics and Nanomanufacturing Certificate program in addressing the skilled worker gap in the semiconductor industry, fostering innovation, and supporting economic growth in Arizona and beyond.”

Rio Salado is currently recruiting for the next cohort of students for the fall 2024 Microelectronics and Nanomanufacturing Certificate program.

The next cohort begins Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2024. The deadline to apply is Aug. 26, 2024.

Any qualified applicant who wants to learn more can sign up for information online. Additional information can be found on the Penn State website.

In addition to the MNCP program, Rio Salado offers a certificate of completion and an associate degree in semiconductor manufacturing. Both programs are online. Learn more about these programs and the industry on Rio’s dedicated Semiconductor Manufacturing webpage.

Adult education students, like Hoover, can enroll in semi-conductor manufacturing training while they work toward completing a high school equivalency diploma or while they are learning English with Rio Salado. Information about Rio Salado’s Adult Education program can be found online.