Semiconductor Manufacturing Two-Year Degree Announced

Published 08.19.1998


(Released by the Governor's Office)

UNIVERSITY PARK – Answering the call of the Technology 21 report for a technology-ready workforce, Gov. Tom Ridge kicked off a nationally unique semiconductor-manufacturing associate degree program at The Pennsylvania State University.

The degree program is designed to address the technician shortfall in the rapidly growing semiconductor and semiconductor-supply industry in Pennsylvania

The Commonwealth, Penn State, Pennsylvania College of Technology and the semiconductor industry have jointly developed the Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology degree to help retain and grow the semiconductor industry in Pennsylvania.

"This remarkable facility will help to ensure Pennsylvania's new status as an emerging, high-tech leader by ensuring that Pennsylvania students are trained to win good, high-tech jobs," Ridge said. "A national magazine recently ranked Pennsylvania as a top 10 state for high-tech businesses in the nation a jump up from 15th. With progress like the SMT Program, we are going to keep climbing up toward No. 1!"

Business Facilities, a leading national site selection publication, ranked Pennsylvania No. 10 overall in its August issue. The ranking is a leap of five spots from the state's previous ranking.

The semiconductor industry is a $296.4-million-a-year industry in Pennsylvania with 61 companies employing nearly 6,500 people. The industry is in need of more highly trained people with estimates of more than 40,000 additional semiconductor manufacturing technologists required nationwide by 2001.

The two-year SMT associate degree program will be offered in cooperation with the Penn College. It will include three semesters of study at Penn College in Williamsport and a fourth "capstone" semester with experience in the Penn State Nanofabrication Facility. This fourth semester will provide hands-on training in one of the few university-based, state-of-the-art "clean-room" facilities in the nation.

Ridge toured the high-tech "clean room" before making Wednesday's announcement.

"We're proud to partner with Gov. Ridge to meet those important high technology workforce needs in our Commonwealth," said Penn State President Graham Spanier. "The program will provide the Commonwealth with highly trained, capable and economically successful workers, and put Pennsylvania at the forefront of semiconductor-manufacturing research."

Graduates can expect starting salaries in the industry to reach $35,000 to $40,000 per year. The program already has enrolled six students for the first semester, and will have the ability to graduate as many as 20 students each semester.

"This new program extends Penn College's contributions to the economic and technological advancement in the Commonwealth, blending the strengths of both Penn State and Penn College toward that common goal," said Penn College President Davie Jane Gilmour.

Ridge has released $4 million in state funding over the last two years for the program through Pennsylvania's Ben Franklin/IRC programs. The state funding has helped leverage Penn State's $11 million investment in the program. Unique aspects of the program will include tuition grants for graduates who remain and work in Pennsylvania and the experience of training on actual manufacturing equipment in the nanofabrication facility.

"This initiative will make us competitive with states like Texas and California," said U.S. Rep. John Peterson (R-5), who was Penn State's advocate in bringing the project to Gov. Ridge's attention. "The research and training provided by this facility will help us train a workforce for the 21st century and help make us a player in one of the fastest-growing industries in the world – a goal Gov. Ridge and I share."

Nearly 1,100 computer engineering students graduate each year from Carnegie Mellon, Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh and Lehigh University.

Some of the major players in Pennsylvania's semiconductor industry are: Air Products of Lehigh and Northampton counties; II-VI Inc. of Butler County; Harris Semiconductor, Luzerne County; Lucent Technologies, Berks and Lehigh counties; and CFM Technologies in Chester County.

The SMT program follows suggestions made in Tech 21, a comprehensive, industry-led strategy to ensure Pennsylvania takes its place as a technology leader in the new economy.

(Released by Pennsylvania College of Technology)

New Degree Teams Penn College and Penn State

Semiconductors provide the basic operating function of everything from the Internet and digital electronics to cellular phones. Soon, many of Pennsylvania's future semiconductor technicians will be training at Pennsylvania College of Technology and The Pennsylvania State University.

A new electronics technology associate degree with a semiconductor manufacturing emphasis is joining Penn College's other areas of electronics technology emphases in the School of Industrial and Engineering Technologies. But this program is different because it is offered in cooperation with Penn State.

Students will complete three semesters at Penn College, followed by a fourth semester at Penn State's Electronic Materials and Processing Research Laboratory, a multi-million dollar laboratory on the University Park campus.

"The semiconductor industry is education and research-intensive," according to Dr. Stephen J. Fonash, director of Penn State's Electronic Materials and Processing Research Laboratory and the Semiconductor Manufacturing Initiative. "The initiative will sustain and grow this dynamic, high-impact industry in Pennsylvania."

Semiconductors are a $296.4 million a year industry in Pennsylvania with 61 companies employing nearly 6,500 people.

"The industry has grown, world-wide, to be larger than the automobile and steel industries combined," Fonash said.

The target is to train 100 students per year with 60 students earning Penn College associate degrees and 40 industry personnel upgrading their skills with professional development courses. Tuition grants will be available for graduates who choose to remain and work in Pennsylvania.

Industry leaders, Harris Semiconductor and Lucent Technologies, have provided curriculum development direction and support and are expected to hire talented graduates. Dr. Eric K. Albert, dean of Penn College's School of Industrial & Engineering Technologies, expects the initiative "will be able to attract a stream of students right at the beginning of the program."

"We are very excited to be involved with this program and expect it to be an extremely timely and important opportunity for students and industry in Pennsylvania," he said. "The program combines Penn College's outstanding electronics technology programming, which currently enrolls over 300 students, with Penn State's distinguished Electronic Materials and Processing Research Laboratory."

The sharing of resources between Penn College and the university is expected to enhance Pennsylvania's work force. The first public announcement of the project came as Penn State President Graham Spanier addressed a legislative hearing on work force development held at Penn College earlier this year. Ridge released $2 million in state Ben Franklin Program monies to support the initiative.