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University-Industry Engagement Week

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Student talent draws Intel to Ohio as it plans $20B ‘fab’ plants

A detailed article on Intel’s major investments in Ohio and its partnering activity with the state’s universities to boost the tech talent pipeline appears in the April  issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, click here. 

How big a draw is student talent for industry? Well, Intel just announced a planned investment of $20 billion for two fabrication facilities — just the first phase of its vision — near Columbus, OH, citing the student talent available at Ohio State and other area universities as the main draw of the city.

And to prove their point, they also revealed a $100-million commitment to support education and establish research collaborations with universities, community colleges, and technology centers across the U.S. — including $50 million in Ohio’s higher education institutions alone — to address tech challenges and workforce shortages. The icing on the cake was an announcement that NSF will also be investing $50 million into a new directorate (its first in 32 years) for semiconductor manufacturing, education, and research.

“The most critical element is the talent Intel needs — highly skilled talent that can be felt in every element of our operation, from coming in with a couple of years’ degree to support the facility all the way to Bachelors, Master’s, and PhDs — across the whole spectrum,” said Keyvan Esfarjani, Intel executive vice president of manufacturing, supply chain and operations. In addition, he shared that Intel will be building two additional fabrication facilities in Arizona, one in New Mexico and Oregon, and a “huge” project in Europe. “We’re full steam ahead — particularly here in Ohio,” he added.

While Intel has participated in education partnerships over the years, “even with these in place it will not be enough to meet the needs of the times; we need tens of thousands of highly skilled [employees] coming and entering this field to be number one,” said Esfarjani.

Among the top reasons Intel chose Ohio, he noted, were “access to a diverse workforce, strong educational institutions as a foundation, and supporting infrastructure. Although there were a thousand variables, it comes down to three things: land, infrastructure, and most importantly, talent. Compared to everywhere we looked, Ohio meets all of them.”

Grace Wang, PhD, executive vice president for research, innovation and knowledge at The Ohio State University, says “our most important message is that we are committed to providing a high-quality workforce of ready talent — which is most important for high-tech companies like Intel. Second most important, OSU is a leading research university. To be next to an institution like ours is really great [for the company] — not only because of our students, but our faculty experts, and our state-of-the-art research facilities. Going forward, research collaborations will be very important.”

Anyone, particularly a tech-based company, “better think about talent first” if they’re choosing a location, she continues. “That’s why universities have become a lot more involved in economic development and community outreach,” Wang says.

So, what do the university and its industry partner envision going forward? “We’re building a comprehensive attraction and engagement plan,” shared Christy Pambianchi, Intel Chief People Officer, “including large-scale recruiting and hiring events.” Intel, she noted, is looking to fill 7,000 construction jobs, with 3,000 employees working in the two fab centers. “They’ll span two-year associates degrees to maybe requiring PhDs so we can test the limits of science,” she added. “We’re exploring STEM development programs, so we make sure we fill the pipeline we need.”

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