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Intel's future workforce is already being trained at 15 Southwest Ohio colleges

Students in UC's Mantei Center Cleanroom are getting their certification to work for computer chip companies like Intel.
Corrie Mayer
University of Cincinnati
Students in UC's Mantei Center Cleanroom are getting their certification to work for computer chip companies like Intel. UC is taking the lead in a consortium of schools training the 3,000 employees Intel is hiring.

More than two years before it's set to open a computer chip factory near Columbus, Intel is already making sure it will have a skilled workforce. It's paying 15 colleges and universities in Southwest Ohio to teach a rapid certification course. It’s also funding other such programs across Ohio.

The University of Cincinnati is leading a consortium called OASiS, or Ohio Southwest Alliance on Semiconductors and Integrated Scalable Manufacturing.

According to Gautam Pillay, UC associate dean for research in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, “The goal for all 15 institutions is to train over 1,000 students over this three-year period, and working with faculty at all the different institutions in developing course content that can be shared, not just with just the 15 institutions.”

The two-week rapid certification course teaches the fundamentals and safety of working in clean rooms and microchip manufacturing. It will supplement both two- and four-year degrees in engineering.

RELATED: What Intel's Central Ohio semiconductor factories could mean for Greater Cincinnati

The 15 institutions in Southwest Ohio who developed and are teaching the course include:

• University of Cincinnati
• Cedarville University
• Central State University
• Cincinnati State Community College
• Clark State Community College
• Edison State Community College
• Miami University
• Mount Vernon Nazarene University
• Sinclair Community College
• University of Cincinnati - Blue Ash
• University of Cincinnati - Clermont
• University of Dayton
• Wittenberg University
• Wright State University
• Xavier University

Students like Nathan Hernandez have already taken the course. He's a UC graduate student in electrical engineering. “I felt it was really nice groundwork to really get your foot into all of this and I took a whole bunch of classes as well afterwards.”

James Hart also finished the rapid certification. He’s looking forward to a growing field for electrical engineers in Ohio. “It means there’s going to be a whole lot of opportunities for not even just Intel but it’ll kind of create its own whole ecosystem where you’ll start seeing smaller companies popping up doing more specialized things.”

Intel’s $20 billion investment is the biggest in Ohio history. Construction is expected to be finished at the Licking County plant by the end of 2025.

Semiconductor jobs began disappearing nearly 30 years ago. That's when it was cheaper to make them overseas. University of Cincinnati Director of Microelectronics and Integrated Computing Systems Rashmi Jha is thrilled to see them coming back.

RELATED: State leaders reflect on what the Intel groundbreaking means for Ohio

“The fact that all semiconductor jobs are going offshore also has produced a shortage of workforce," she says. "If the students can’t find a job in the areas we teach them, over time those areas will vanish, right? So the fact that Intel is opening here will also promote educators to train the workforce in this area.”

Demand is only going to increase. Global chip manufacturing is expected to grow by 56% by 2030.

“In the next decade the major driver of semiconductor electronics is going to be communication, artificial intelligence, as well as the automotive industry," Jha says. "You’ll need a lot of chips for automotive.”

Intel says boosting chip production in the U.S. is critical to national security and industrial competitiveness. Ohio says Intel’s technology is essential to key state sectors including automotive, advanced mobility, aerospace and aviation, consumer goods, data centers, defense, healthcare and technology.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.