Congress recently passed legislation to support the domestic manufacturing of semiconductor chips. The CHIPS bill (it stands for “Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors for America”) will grant $54 billion to companies for semiconductor manufacturing and research, along with additional billions to boost regional technology hubs.
“By making more semiconductors in the United States, this bill will increase domestic manufacturing and lower costs for families,” President Biden said in a statement. “And it will strengthen our national security by making us less dependent on foreign sources of semiconductors.”
According to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, the U.S. currently produces around 12 percent of the world’s semiconductors, down from 40 percent a few decades ago. Meanwhile, China has poured more than $150 billion into expanding its domestic chip-building capacity.
This rebuilding of the U.S. chip industry could have a sizable impact on technologist employment. Companies that will benefit from this influx of federal dollars, such as Intel, will need specialized technologists to help build out, maintain, and evolve their chip fabrication facilities. (Intel already plans to build what its CEO called the “largest silicon manufacturing location on the planet” in Columbus, Ohio, which will supposedly employ more than 3,000 people when it opens in 2025.)
According to a recent CompTIA analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), semiconductor and PC manufacturing was already a large and growing vector for tech employment, outpacing telecommunications, data processing, custom software services, and others:
What kinds of skills are needed to work with semiconductors? For engineers, many job postings ask for a degree in electrical or mechanical engineering, and sometimes chemical engineering; skillsets in chemistry, applied mechanics, physics, and other kinds of engineering are often essential. On a more tactical level, you’ll need to understand the manufacturing cycle for semiconductors, including knowledge of equipment and manufacturing steps. Depending on the company and role, knowledge of software and programming languages such as C++ and Python could likewise prove invaluable.
Like many other tech jobs, working in semiconductors also requires several “soft skills” such as communication, teamwork, the ability to multitask, and familiarity with methodologies such as Agile and Lean.