A semiconductor in the shape of the U.S. flag

Report: The federal CHIPS legislation is a massive workforce opportunity

Brookings: ‘One of the most important workforce development laws in years’
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The federal CHIPS and Science Act – known for its focus on increasing U.S. semiconductor manufacturing – is “also one of the most important workforce development laws in years,” according to new research from Brookings.

Co-authored by senior fellows Martha Ross and Mark Muro, How federal, state, and local leaders can leverage the CHIPS and Science Act as a landmark workforce opportunity notes, 33 of the act’s programs support STEM-related education, training, and outreach in at least some way.

In addition, the law puts an emphasis on skilled tech jobs that do not require a college degree. “Key programs…integrate economic and workforce development, as they too rarely are.”

Ross says, “The law truly forces workforce intermediaries to work more closely with industry.”

According to the report, “Both the semiconductor industry specifically and the advanced sector more broadly report persistent challenges in securing STEM professionals and technicians,” including engineers and computer scientists with four-year degrees and skilled technicians with associate degrees.

“The upshot is that too few American students now pursue university STEM degrees and stick with STEM work, or train at community colleges and other settings to obtain the skills needed for technician roles in advanced industry work.”

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) and Oxford Economics finds 67,000 of the projected 115,000 new chip jobs – expected by 2030 – could be unfilled given current trends.

“The law authorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF) to spend $2.6 billion per year for STEM education and workforce development over the next five years.

But the authors point out the law’s workforce components are “overshadowed by its chip subsidies,” making determining the exact amounts and programmatic nature of the resources “challenging in some cases and impossible in others.”

Martha Ross, senior fellow, Brookings (l), Mark Muro, senior fellow, Brookings (r)
Calls to Action

Federal, state, and local stakeholders cannot lose the opportunity presented by the CHIPS and Science Act. The report says, “Congress needs to build out the funding base for the new skills surge” and federal agencies must communicate “a set of principles and best practices” in their support of workforce development.

State and local officials need to “assemble and build out sustainable partnerships and systems that serve employers and workers differently from business-as-usual, and that can last beyond the law’s current investment in training.

“Above all, they need to become co-investors in the construction of a new system.”

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