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More than 20 universities across the northeast are joining forces to create Micron's workforce

Usually, colleges and universities are competing for students, for staff and on the athletic field. This new Northeast University Semiconductor Network brings them together with more than 20 college presidents and officials meeting this week in Syracuse.
Ellen Abbott
/
WRVO
Usually, colleges and universities are competing for students, for staff and on the athletic field. This new Northeast University Semiconductor Network brings them together with more than 20 college presidents and officials meeting this week in Syracuse.

More than 20 universities from across upstate New York and the northeast are joining forces to create a workforce for Micron. A new university semiconductor network hopes to fill many of the 50,000 jobs coming to central New York when Micron builds four microchip plants just outside of Syracuse.

Usually, colleges and universities are competing for students, for staff, or on the athletic field. The new Northeast University Semiconductor Network brings them together, with more than 20 college presidents and officials meeting this week in Syracuse. It was a first for Clarkson University President Marc Christensen.

"I’ve never been somewhere where there’s this many university presidents with one focused goal that we’re trying to work together on, not compete for,” Christensen said.

That goal? Creating a workforce for the thousands of employees who will be needed in Central and Upstate New York to work at Micron, and related semiconductor industry jobs.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said this training pipeline will be able to access billions in new funding from the CHIPS and Science Act. Schumer said the network will meet with the federal government’s top science officials, and determine what will be needed to train the next generation of workers.

"And then presto, there are the workers Micron needs as it builds its chip fabs,” Schumer said.

Leading the federal government effort, Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan, director of the U.S. National Science Foundation. In Syracuse, he met with Micron and university leaders to plan how to train a workforce able to handle the demands of the semiconductor industry. He’s armed with almost $10 billion to begin implementation of NSF STEM training and education programs.

"Basically what we do is fund the best ideas, which has the best possibility of unleashing innovation and creating impact,” Panchanathan said.

Among those joining the network, the New York’s SUNY and CUNY system. Chancellor John King said there are already programs rooted in the semiconductor business at various schools that can become part of the pipeline.

“We’ve got such a range of institutions in New York that all can play a role in ensuring the success of this effort," King said. "We’ll all continue to stay in close conversation."

Other participating colleges and universities include Syracuse, Cornell, New York University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology, Barnard College, as well as programs from Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

There will be funding for program development. Rochester Institute of Technology President David Munson expects dollars also available for infrastructure, something he’s interested in.

"We have a pretty old clean room," Munson said. "We keep working away year by year to add updates, but we also need money for infrastructure.”

Cooperation is the key to making this first-of-its-kind partnership work according to Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud.

"There’s a lot of work ahead for all of us," Syverud said. "But if that work is supported by all of us cooperating, it’s going to benefit everyone in New York and in the region.”

Christensen calls it a game-changer for his North Country college.

"This is gonna have such a difference in students who can come to a place like Clarkson, study and then stay in New York," Christensen said.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.