Director’s Message — Building Robust Collaboration At Community Colleges

ATE's MATEC Networks National Resource Center A technician participating in a MATEC Networks National Resource Center professional development course checks a critical dimension.

In the rapidly evolving field of nanotechnology, the concept of ‘collaborative innovation’ becomes increasingly significant. The National Advanced Packaging Manufacturing Program from the American Semiconductor Innovation Coalition stands as a testament to this, highlighting the indispensable power of community in this dynamic sector. 

As the Principal Investigator of MNT-EC, my engagements with leaders across government, academia, and industry have not only illuminated their crucial roles in education and workforce development but also mirrored the collaborative essence of the SEMI and ASA partnership.

These collective endeavors, spurred by the landmark CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, are pivotal in our shared mission to regain global leadership in semiconductor manufacturing and secure long-term economic competitiveness for the nation.

The Importance of Community 

The maxim, “it takes a village,” is essential (and exciting, frankly) as we invite young people and those new to the field to navigate this intricate landscape; the need for robust networking, effective mentorship, and collaborative efforts is vital. As a related aside, the MNT-EC actively mentors and guides the next generation, fostering the broader goal of creating an innovative nano culture.

This blog post ventures into these essential areas, offering insights and strategies to reinforce connections. By nurturing these relationships, we not only enhance collaboration but also unlock the potential for groundbreaking innovation and more effective solutions to our industry’s pressing challenges.

The Need for a Collaborative Approach – What’s Different?

In addressing the pressing challenge of a disconnect between educational institutions and industry needs, our initiative aligns with the goals of the ASIC work and SEMI-ASA partnership. This alignment is critical, especially considering the focus on revitalizing semiconductor research and manufacturing in the U.S. and the collaborative model set forth by SEMI and ASA.

Engineers AND Technicians

Let me share an example on the value of both engineers and technicians. We may forget or not realize how often they work together. They need each other. Such is the case for 2-year colleges and 4-year colleges, each usually training only one of these careers; we need each other. 

At Pasadena Community College, I have been involved in many transfer student success stories. My two-year students graduate and transfer to four-year schools, most often engineering programs. In some cases, students complete their two year degree or certificate and start a technician-level job immediately. But they later inform me of how their company is paying them to upskill, either with more certificates or transferring in later to a four-year college. 

The synergy between engineers and technicians is crucial. Engineers rely on the practical insights and expertise of technicians to realize their designs in the real world. Technicians, on the other hand, rely on the theoretical and design expertise of engineers to understand the broader context of their work and to implement solutions effectively. This collaboration is essential for innovation and efficiency in almost every field – from the military to complex fields like semiconductors. We need this synergy at the community college and four-year college levels.

Community colleges, pivotal in bridging the gap towards an engineering degree, must navigate the complexity of simultaneously preparing technicians for the workforce, as well as preparing transfer students for entrance into an engineering program at partner universities. Our approach advocates for more responsive communication and authentic partnerships within the micro nanotech education ecosystem.

This partnership would provide for a centralized partner, such as ASIC or the ASA to foster synergy among community colleges and K-12 educators, within the university system, while also providing support in connecting community colleges to industry partners, and government bodies. The partnership’s mission would be to align education with industry needs, particularly in the nanotechnology sector, and create a seamless pathway from education to employment. Current initiatives have striven to provide this space but have limited K-12 and community college partners, whose voices are essential if we are to successfully prepare our students for the workforce or enter university MNT education pathways.

Our effort within the MNT-EC National Center is to evolve current initiatives in synergy with the objectives set by the NAPMP and the SEMI-ASA partnership. By focusing on advanced semiconductor packaging and workforce development, we aim to complement the efforts made by our university partners, many who oversee initiatives driven by the CHIPS for America Workforce and Education Funds. Practical steps that can be supported by these efforts are:

  1. Facilitating Regular Interdisciplinary Workshops and Strategy Sessions: These sessions would bring together stakeholders to discuss challenges, share insights, and develop unified strategies for workforce development.
  2. Developing Collaborative Projects: Joint research and curriculum development projects would be a cornerstone of the partnership, providing practical experience to students and valuable insights to industry partners.
  3. Pooling Resources and Funding: The initiative would explore innovative funding models to support its efforts, reducing resource competition and maximizing impact.

Together, we can build a future where education aligns seamlessly with the industry’s needs, reflecting the SEMI-ASA partnership’s collaborative spirit and the strategic objectives of the NAPMP. 

We invite educators, industry professionals, and policymakers to join us in this endeavor, contributing to a workforce that is as diverse and innovative as the field of nanotechnology itself. 

Our collective effort is vital for maintaining the extraordinary benefits of providing an advanced micro nanotechnology education and ensuring economic and environmental sustainability in U.S. domestic manufacturing.

Community & Resource Links

American Semiconductor Academy Initiative | SEMI

Vision for NSTC — American Semiconductor Innovation Coalition (ASIC)

Dean’s note: The CHIPS Act: A call to action – Berkeley Engineering

American Semiconductor Academy (ASA) Initiative and SEMI Partner to Bolster Microelectronics Industry Talent Pool | SEMI

American Semiconductor Innovation Coalition (ASIC)

CHIPS Act includes new support for workforce training, providing opportunities beyond R&D for higher education | Berkeley

More about the post image

ATE’s MATEC Networks National Resource Center

A technician participating in a MATEC Networks National Resource Center professional development course checks a critical dimension.

Supported in part by the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program, MATEC Networks’ National Resource Center provides venues for creating, sharing and promoting digital resources and faculty professional development for semiconductor manufacturing, automation, electronics and micro–nanotechnologies.
Credit: ATE Centers Impact 2016-2017 via the NSF Multimedia Gallery.