Partnership with DOD’s Microelectronics Work¬force Development Program Continues, Expands

<p>The nearly $11M, five-year extension of the SCALE program aims to restore global lead through education initiatives.</p>

The nearly $11M, five-year extension of the SCALE program aims to restore global lead through education initiatives.

The Scalable Asymmetric Lifecycle En­gage­ment Microelectronics Work­force Development program (SCALE) has announced the program will extend another five years and expand with $10.8 million additional Department of Defense (DoD) funding, with a ceiling of $99 million.

SCALE officials said this expansion of the nation’s preeminent program will further its goal to develop a next-generation workforce that can return the United States to prominence in global microelectronics manufacturing.

Georgia Tech participates in the partnership, which is led by Purdue University and managed by NSWC Crane. SCALE facilitates the training of highly skilled U.S. microelectronics engineers, hardware designers and manufacturing experts. SCALE brings together a public-private-academic partnership of 17 universities and 34 partners within the defense industry and government. 

“This is an extremely exciting time in the country and at Tech for microchip design and manufacturing,” said Arijit Raychowdhury, the Steve W. Chaddick School Chair of Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE). “These newly announced funds for the SCALE program will help Georgia Tech recruit a new, diverse group of students ready to work in defense microelectronics. We’re thrilled to be a SCALE partner university and honored to be leading many of the project’s specialty areas.”

SCALE provides unique courses, mentoring, internship matching and targeted research projects for college students interested in five microelectronics specialty areas. Georgia Tech ECE faculty members will be the primary investigators for three of the areas: 

The other two focus areas are embedded system security/trusted AI and supply chain awareness.

Industry and government partners regularly meet and update a list of knowledge, skills, and abilities important for new entrants to the workforce. The SCALE universities then update their curriculum to ensure the students are prepared for upcoming needs in the rapidly advancing microelectronics field.

Peter Bermel, SCALE director and the Elmore Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue, said the United States will need 50,000 trained semiconductor engineers to meet overwhelming and rapidly growing demand.

“The United States is committed to expanding and strengthening its semiconductor industry and workforce rapidly over the next five years,” Bermel said. “SCALE takes a holistic approach to the microelectronics workforce gap by comprehensively addressing system challenges for workforce training and recruiting.”

Goals for the next five years include:

  • Expanding student participation in SCALE fivefold to more than 1,000.
  • Developing learning models for K-12 classrooms.
  • Collaborating with community colleges nationwide to develop microelectronics classes.

The demand for microelectronics increased by 26.2% in 2021. But while the United States consumes about half of the chips produced worldwide, the country only manufactures about 12%, highlighting the pressing need for the U.S. to bolster its domestic semiconductor supply chains and industrial capacity.

The funding announcement is the latest highlight in Georgia Tech’s leadership role in bolstering microelectronics and workforce development. Tech’s large engineering and science faculty bring a broad set of research expertise to strengthen the country’s semiconductor capacity. The Institute is uniquely positioned to train the microelectronics workforce, drive future microelectronics advances, and provide fabrication and packaging facilities for industry, academic and government partners to develop and test new solutions.

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