Intel says most of its new jobs will go to workers without four-year degrees. Also, Handshake on student interest in semiconductor careers, Julia Freeland Fisher on how college career services can be engines of economic mobility, and reader responses on improving medical assistant careers.

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A weekly newsletter about the intersection of education and work. By Paul Fain

CHIPS and Community Colleges

As billions of dollars begin to flow toward reviving the moribund U.S. semiconductor-manufacturing industry, a key part of the nation’s most ambitious industrial policy in decades, worries are mounting about who will build and work at the new fabrication facilities—the fabs.

The roughly $50B federal CHIPS Act investment included a relatively small amount of education and training funds, yet both the Biden administration and corporate officials are touting the creation of pipelines to train workers for the industry’s $210B spending spree.

Many of the jobs created will go to workers without four-year degrees, those officials say, including roles for construction workers and technicians, and a huge number of positions across the supply chain. Community college leaders are cautiously optimistic promises will become a reality.

Intel, for example, has announced $45B in spending over five years for manufacturing facilities in Ohio and Arizona, and on advanced packaging in New Mexico.

“We have to essentially hire 7K people to staff those factories. Of that 7K, two-thirds will not need a college degree,” Allen Thompson, Intel’s vice president for U.S. government relations, said during an April event hosted by the Center for American Progress. “It’s critical that we work with our community colleges to be able to staff and have the workforce needed.”

He said the company is starting with a greenfield in Ohio and will be building both the new plants and the workforce ecosystem to run them. Intel is spending $50M to develop education and training partnerships with colleges and universities in the state. Those collaborations are spread all across Ohio, Thompson said, and every one includes a community college.

“Intel really did want to include all the institutions,” Jared Bass, senior director for higher education at the Center for American Progress, said during an interview.

For community colleges, Bass said that means the creation of training programs to “fill the gap on the front end,” particularly the construction workers who will build the huge manufacturing facilities, which typically are five football fields long, as well as opportunities in the plants for skilled workers with certificates or associate degrees.

Those roles include orbital welders and pipe fitters, according to Thompson, among many other jobs. He pointed to one of the partnerships in Ohio that includes all of the state’s 23 community colleges, which is working to create an open, shareable curricular training model.

Beyond that first credential, Bass said he’s hopeful that some of the community college graduates who land jobs at Intel’s facilities can follow a path to a four-year degree. The sort of intentional talent pipeline strategy that can make that possible already exists, he said, including collaborations between universities and Northern Virginia Community College.

“It’s not an us-versus-them mentality, which we often see in higher education,” Bass said of the Intel-funded partnerships. “It’s going to take all the parts of the system.”

In Arizona, Intel teamed up with the Maricopa Community Colleges to create a 10-day training program for entry-level semiconductor-processing technicians. Students who complete the “quick start” program and pass a certification test receive a stipend to cover the $270 tuition price. They can interview for jobs that pay $20-$25 per hour.

This new on-ramp for semiconductor jobs is designed as an option for workers ranging from high school students to career changers in their 40s, Adrienne Elrod, director of external and government affairs for the CHIPS program office at the U.S. Department of Commerce, said during the CAP event.

“Sectoral partnerships are where it’s at,” she said, adding that offering students a 10-day training program “is not something that most four-year colleges are equipped to do.”

While it’s still early, Bass said Intel’s focus on opportunities for community college students is a model to hold up.

The Kicker: “This is a key moment to see that alignment between higher education and workforce development,” he said.

Perspective: College career services are ailing—networks are the cure

To be engines of economic mobility, colleges need to focus less on providing generic job information and more on helping students build professional networks, writes Julia Freeland Fisher of the Clayton Christensen Institute.

Growing Interest in Semiconductor Careers

The U.S. semiconductor industry faces severe potential shortages of engineers and skilled technicians in coming years, Madeleine Ngo recently reported for The New York Times, citing estimates from Deloitte and McKinsey.

A lack of awareness about the industry and too few students entering relevant academic fields make hiring difficult for manufacturers, Ngo reported.

But students at four-year colleges are becoming more interested in the semiconductor industry, according to new data from Handshake. And semiconductor companies are ramping up internship opportunities to help bring in more students, with a more than 40% increase in internships compared to last year.

Handshake, a career platform with more than 12M active student users and 750K employer partners, found a 79% jump in applications for full-time jobs at the top 20 semiconductor companies that were posted between September and February. (The company saw an overall increase of 19% in applications for jobs in other industries.)

“Students are fully aware of the macroeconomic environment,” says Jacqueline Barrett, an economist, data scientist, and consultant who is the lead on Handshake’s labor-market reports. Young jobseekers also appear to be placing more priority on job stability and careers with growth potential.

Semiconductor workers typically make more than employees in other industries. Handshake cited a relative wage premium of 65% for workers with some college or an associate degree, and 79% for bachelor’s degree holders.

While internship postings are way up, Handshake has yet to see an increase in full-time jobs across those top 20 semiconductor companies. But Barrett says that should change soon.

“These companies are on campus,” she says. “This is a great opportunity for all the students on the platform.”

Reader Replies on MAs

Last week I wrote about the many certificate programs in medical assisting that would fail the Biden administration’s proposed gainful-employment rule, typically due to their graduates’ relatively high debt loads and low wages.

Several readers responded to the piece:

  • One way to boost pay in the profession would be to “give medical assistants a share of the increased productivity they create,” says Will Dorsey Eden, a director at Jobs for the Future. Health systems that have a higher relative ratio of medical assistants to doctors can serve more patients, he writes. This is “good for healthcare access and generates more revenue which medical assistants could and should get a share of.”
  • As a long-term midcareer career destination, medical assisting “can look pretty bleak,” says Rafael A. Castañeda, SVP of strategic partnerships and workforce development at MedCerts, and Rob Sentz, founder of CreativeSentz. But the job can be a key starting point for medical assistants who get a certification and then pursue more education down the road, they write, by transferring into a degree program.
  • Community colleges offer medical assistant programs that are affordable, writes Erica M., who says she’s a medical assistant. Yet some push a two-year degree, which she says is “unnecessary to gain entry-level employment.” Likewise, most programs are full-time only or charge full-time tuition rates for part-time students. “This is why I believe some students have shied away from this potential career path, and healthcare in general,” she writes.

Open Tabs

Wage Gains
Low-income workers have made historic gains in wages even after inflation during the past three years, reversing a decades-long trend of growing income inequality, according to a new analysis of federal data by Politico. But for middle-income workers, wage and price increases have been a wash—setting up political tension over whose interests should come first in deciding how hot to let the economy run. Expect that tension to play out over the coming months, reporter Victoria Guida writes.

Short-Term ROI
Kentucky college students who earned a rapid certificate (one to six credits) saw significant and immediate earnings and employment gains after completion, particularly in healthcare, but those benefits gradually declined over time, found a study by researchers at the University of Kentucky and Michigan State University. In contrast, students who earned longer but still short-term certificates (seven to 36 credits) had a steady increase in earnings.

Employment and Enrollment
The unemployment rate for teenage workers in the U.S. fell to a 70-year low last month, amid strong job growth in parts of the leisure and hospitality sector that typically don’t require a high school diploma, Harriet Torry reports for The Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, the college enrollment rate for recent high-school graduates declined to 62% last year, compared to 66% before the pandemic and high of 70% in 2009.

Skills-Based Hiring
Virginia’s state agencies will eliminate degree requirements or preferences for almost 90% of their jobs, Glenn Youngkin, Virginia’s Republican governor, announced this week. The state advertises more than 20K government job opportunities each year. The change will take effect in July. Virginia is at least the 10th state to make a move to drop degree requirements for a substantial number of state government jobs.

Bootcamp Sector
Tech bootcamps continued to grow last year despite uncertainty in tech hiring, according to the latest State of the Bootcamp Market Report from Career Karma. Bootcamps produced almost 59K new graduates last year, a 3% increase, and earned about $728M in revenue. Top employers of new bootcamp grads were Amazon (1,077), Accenture (819), and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (400), although those numbers include some 2021 grads.

Nursing Pathways
The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced $78M in grants to back workforce training programs and career advancement for nurses in 17 states. The equity-focused funding through the Nursing Expansion Grant Program will support 25 public-private partnerships with goals of increasing numbers of nursing instructors and educators and creating opportunities for frontline healthcare workers to advance on a career path.

Job Search
Just under half of students at four-year colleges feel confident in finding a job after graduation, according to a new survey by the career services platform Symplicity. And six in 10 worried they do not have the right qualifications for the kinds of jobs they want—with women more likely to have that concern than men. Students would like to see more realistic expectations in job descriptions, rather than a wish list, and more clarity about roles and responsibilities.

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—Paul Fain

A veteran higher education journalist and analyst, Paul focuses on the connections between education and the American workforce.