Active military, veterans, and their dependents enrolled in manufacturing programs at Georgia Piedmont Technical College will soon be reaping the benefits of a recently approved grant. Monies from the four-year, $4.6 million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will be used to train and educate these students in the microelectronics and nanomanufacturing fields. Georgia Piedmont is one of nine community colleges and universities named in the grant and will receive an estimated $250,000. The participating schools are Penn State University, Georgia Tech, Norfolk Southern University, University of California San Diego, Arizona State University, Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Virginia, Southwestern College in San Diego, and Rio Salado College in Tempe, Arizona. Leading the effort is the Center for Nanotechnology Education and Utilization at Penn State. The community and technical colleges’ roles are primarily to recruit these particular students for 12-week courses that will be offered at the larger partnering school or university each fall and spring semester through 2026. In the case of Georgia Piedmont, students will be advised and supported through GPTC while receiving virtual instruction from PSU and hands-on lab experience at Georgia Tech. At the conclusion of the program, students will receive a Microelectronics and Nanomanufacturing Certificate from Penn State as well as a certificate from GPTC and will be eligible to earn three national certifications. Enrollment in the program is free and students may be eligible for up to $1000 in stipends. It’s estimated that 300 students will graduate by 2026, which marks the end of the grant.
The NSF grant cites a statistic that in order to meet the overwhelming worldwide demand for semiconductors, the existing skilled workforce must be increased by 50 percent, an estimated 20 fabrication plants must be built and between 70,000 – 90,000 specialized jobs must be created. According to a summary of the grant, the United States in particular has been experiencing a massive shortage of semiconductor chips due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Industries affected include automotive, consumer electronics, and cybersecurity. By rebuilding and strengthening this workforce, these industries and others will allow the U.S. to be more globally competitive.
Closer to home, Georgia Piedmont Technical College is in the process of developing its own semiconductor manufacturing academic program which is expected to be complete and ready for students in fall of 2023.