Jun 21, 2023 - Economy

How Phoenix is retraining workers for the next-gen economy

Illustrated collage of a wireframe brain next to a hand holding a microchip surrounded by various rectangles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The arrival of new employers — most notably Taiwanese semiconductor giant TSMC — is forcing Arizona to skill, re-skill and upskill its workforce to meet the demands of the booming advanced manufacturing industry.

What's happening: Arizona community colleges and universities have developed training courses and degree programs to fill the immediate and long-term needs of new high-tech companies sprouting in metro Phoenix.

Details: Three metro Phoenix community colleges now offer an accelerated Semiconductor Technician Quick Start program, allowing students to earn a certification in 10 days.

  • Every student who completes the program at Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC), in Buckeye, Arizona, is guaranteed a first interview with TSMC, and some courses are taught by TSMC employees.
  • About 150 people have completed the program since last July, EMCC's interim vice president of academic affairs, Paula Livingston, told Axios.

Separately, Central Arizona College opened a training center in 2020 focused on advanced automotive engineering to support Lucid and other electric vehicle companies.

  • That program has trained 1,900 people so far.

The bottom line: These rapid training programs are likely to become even more vital as automation and artificial intelligence continues to disrupt Phoenix's job market, forcing workers to gain new skills to stay competitive.

Meanwhile: Arizona State University (ASU) faculty are conducting "research at the cutting edge of the technology developments in the semiconductor and autonomous vehicle industries" and infusing their findings into their courses, computer engineering program chair Martin Reisslein tells Axios.

  • Hongbin Yu directs the Center for Efficient Vehicles and Sustainable Transportation Systems, a four-university partnership based out of ASU.
  • He's been teaching an introduction to electric and autonomous vehicles course for seven years, and he conducts and oversees student research related to automotive sensors and laser detection.
  • He told Axios many of his graduates have secured jobs with Lucid, Tesla and lidar companies.
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