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$2 million to expand IU-led semiconductor workforce development in Indiana

For Immediate Release Jun 26, 2024

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A $2 million initiative will support the launch of new pilot programs at Indiana University to attract more women and other underrepresented populations to the semiconductor industry, a growing area of the U.S. economy of vital interest to Indiana’s future and national security.

The project is part of the EDGE Consortium, a national effort dedicated to making semiconductor-related education more accessible and aligned with industry workforce needs. The initiative is supported by SCALE, the preeminent U.S. program for semiconductor workforce development in the defense sector.

The initiative includes multiple pilot programs to attract more women and other underrepresented populations to the microelectronics indu... The initiative includes multiple pilot programs to attract more women and other underrepresented populations to the microelectronics industry. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University

Funded by the Department of Defense, SCALE is led by Purdue University and managed by NSWC Crane on behalf of Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, which is responsible for the development and transition of leap-ahead technologies in support of the Joint Force.

“Expanding the numbers and types of people pursuing careers in the semiconductor workforce is the only way we’re going to meet the nation’s demand for workers in this critical and expanding industry,” said IU President Pamela Whitten, who is co-chair of the EDGE Consortium. “This important work requires a concerted effort on the part of our nation’s leading research universities and IU is proud to be among those leading the charge.”

The new pilot programs at IU are led by Joanna Millunchick, dean of the IU Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering. Millunchick is also a founding member of the EDGE Consortium.

“The demand for workforce for the microelectronics industry is so great that our current population of STEM students is insufficient to meet it,” Millunchick said. “These new programs are designed to expand the pipeline by engaging women and other underrepresented populations, changing how we teach so that more students master the material, and supporting those who have committed to these fields so that they can be successful in their careers.”

EDGE member institutions consist of the nation’s leading research universities with women as both presidents and deans of engineering. The project will also support work led by Shalaunda Reeves at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

The pilot projects at IU are EDGE X, EDGE Academy and EDGE Works.

EDGE X

Targeting K-12 students, EDGE X will advance efforts to attract pre-college students to the semiconductor field. This includes funding the production of learning experience materials for educators and a web series on topics relevant to the semiconductor industry.

EDGE X has partnered with Alia Pope, a fourth-grade math and science teacher and online personality, to produce the videos. Distribution of the videos will occur on social media and PBS affiliates across the country in partnership with local public television stations.

EDGE Academy

Targeting early undergraduate students, EDGE Academy will advance activities to retain undergraduate students pursuing degrees in STEM and reduce attrition due to perceptions about course difficulty or an unwelcoming environment.

This will include revisions to select Luddy School courses, such as course materials updates, evaluations of classroom climate and “learning experience redesigns” in collaboration with course instructors. These efforts will also offer comprehensive instructor support and evaluate outcomes based on validated metrics.

EDGE Works

Targeting people who are not pursing college degrees, EDGE Works will focus on developing workers’ skills in topics relevant to the semiconductor industry through industry-driven curriculum.

EDGE Works is partnering with groups such as the Regional Opportunity Initiatives and Ivy Tech Community College to produce and disseminate distributed learning courses. These programs will amplify and enhance existing programs such as the High School READI program, which connects individuals with opportunities to pursue careers as technicians, operators and engineers in the semiconductor industry.

Joanna Millunchick Joanna Millunchick, dean of the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering. Photo by Indiana University

The EDGE Consortium’s other existing initiatives include the EDGE Scholars program, which focuses on retaining senior undergraduates and graduate students as well as aiding in transitions into professional careers.

Expanding semiconductor research and manufacturing in the U.S. is also a key goal of the 2022 CHIPS and Science Act, a $280 billion bipartisan piece of legislation co-led by U.S. Sen. Todd Young of Indiana. The state was recently named host of one of only eight new regional semiconductor-production hubs across the country under the act.

“Although the U.S. invented the semiconductor, it only produced 10 percent of the world’s supply, relying heavily on East Asia for global production, which poses economic and national security risks,” said Angela Lewis, technical director at NSWC Crane Division. “Diversifying and expanding the semiconductor workforce will meet both economic and security needs.”

The pilot phase of these programs will be funded through 2026. An initial progress report with leaders from the initiative is expected to occur in the fall.

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