Intel is aiming to reduce barriers to employment and grow the potential employee pool in the quickly-growing semiconductor industry through a community college partnership. Intel and Maricopa County Community College District officials hope the partnership will show participants that they have a place in the industry regardless of gender, race or economic background.

The Quick Start program, an accelerated semiconductor manufacturing course, will first launch in Mesa Community College and will expand to Estrella Mountain Community College and Chandler-Gilbert Community College. The Mesa class, which is scheduled to begin May 16, is already full and received over 200 applicants.

“The job openings and qualifications can seem unreachable when you’re applying online, especially if you’re new to the industry,” said Leah Palmer, executive director of the Arizona Advanced Manufacturing Institute at Mesa Community College. “We want to make sure that individuals can see themselves doing this work and being successful at it.”

According to the Maricopa County Community Colleges District website, the program consists of 10 four-hour classes and—upon successful completion—gives participants a skills certification and an opportunity to interview with potential employers. It also counts as three hours of college credit towards an associate’s degree.

A pretest is required prior to registration, and there are no pre-qualifications needed to take the exam. Participants will develop skills to work with semiconductors, a piece of equipment used in electronic devices. Palmer said it can be difficult for some to imagine themselves in a technician role due to a lack of prior experience, social and gender stereotypes or general confusion about what skill sets are required.

“We want everyone to see that this is a space where they can thrive and be successful,” Palmer said. “No matter where you come from or who you are, it’s the continuous pursuit of knowledge that will take you to the next level.”

Dates for program expansion have yet to be announced but a schedule from the Maricopa Community Colleges shows future dates at the Mesa campus in June 2022. The Estrella Mountain and Chandler-Gilbert campuses are listed for summer 2022, but further information was not available as of press time.

Angela Creedon, Arizona public affairs manager at Intel, said the program is expected to bring in a more diverse workforce while also meeting the growing demand for employees at Intel. In 2021, Intel broke ground in Chandler to begin its $20 billion expansion project, which includes adding two new factories to Intel’s Ocotillo campus. The expansion brought Intel’s total investments in Arizona to $50 billion.

"In Arizona alone we’re looking to add 3,000 jobs in the coming year and over half of those jobs will be technicians,” Creedon said. “We’ve created a path to make a more inclusive workplace, and one element of that is creating a diverse workforce.”

Creedon said the first class of students is made up entirely of women. She said there is plenty of space for women in the technology field, but stereotypes and social pressures may be discouraging them from applying for positions such as a semiconductor technician.

“There aren’t any formal barriers to women entering in the role, but it is so important to make options like this program available,” Creedon said. “This is a great program to gain exposure to what an industry like this can offer. It’s about exposure and commitment to inclusion.”