Advanced Manufacturing|

“A friend sent me the link to apply for this course,” said Daniel Rojas at last week’s graduation ceremony for the Quick Start to Semiconductor training program. “And now, hopefully, I can get a job with Intel and start moving up in the company. I’m really excited for the future!”

Washington Co. Chair Kathryn Harrington addresses the graduates.

Rojas was among the most recent cohort of trainees – Quick Start’s 22nd – to complete the program. Quick Start participants receive two weeks of intensive, hands-on instruction, after which they are qualified to interview for positions as entry-level semiconductor fabricators.

Rojas is correct to be excited about his future. The semiconductor industry’s workforce is expected to grow by 33 percent, or about 115,000 jobs, by 2030. The industry is one of the cornerstones of the Portland Metro economy, so this expected growth augurs well not just for Rojas, but for workers across the region.

It was to address this need that Quick Start was created. The program is a partnership between Worksystems, Intel, Washington County, the City of Hillsboro, and Portland Community College (PCC). Training is delivered at PCC’s Willow Creek Center in Hillsboro (where the graduation ceremony was held), equipment and tools are provided by Intel, and funding comes from Worksystems, the City of Hillsboro, and Washington County via the American Rescue Plan Act and the state of Oregon’s Future Ready Oregon/Prosperity 10,000 initiative. Trainees who complete the program are guaranteed an interview with Intel (but not necessarily a job) and are qualified to interview with the several other semiconductor manufacturers based in the region.

Quick Start was intentionally designed to help close the diversity gap in the semiconductor industry, particularly for women. While women make up 47 percent of the nation’s overall workforce, they constitute only 29 percent of the workforce in advanced manufacturing (of which semiconductor fabrication is a sub-sector). Since the program was founded in 2022, 52 percent of participants identify as female, and 60 percent identify as people of color.

“It’s really important that we do our part to ensure that community members who haven’t always had the same opportunities as others can have those opportunities now,” said Washington County Chair Kathryn Harrington, who delivered the commencement address last week, “so that they can have a bright future right here in our community. These are great careers.”

And the program is having an impact. Of the 319 participants to start training, 299 – or 94 percent – have successfully graduated. Seventy-one percent of those who interview with Intel have been hired, and 11 graduates have found jobs with other regional semiconductor businesses. Entry-level semiconductor fabricators in the Portland Metro area can expect to earn between $20 and $24 per hour.

Worksystems is seeking to build capacity for Quick Start in Washington County, and is laying the groundwork to launch a similar program in Multnomah County.

“Programs like this are representative of Worksystems’ commitment to creating opportunities, not only for workers but for industry clusters,” said Worksystems Board Chair James Paulson, who – along with the rest of the Board – was on hand for the graduation. “When we put programs together like this, it’s a chance for someone who’s working in a job that doesn’t pay a family wage to come out of this training and get a job that pays $50,000 a year. And on the flip side, you have employers who are saying, ‘I’m looking for a workforce,’ and who are facing challenges finding that workforce. … It’s really a win-win. Someone needs to bring these pieces together, and Worksystems is positioned perfectly to do that.”

To learn more about Quick Start, click here.

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