Unique Commons Hub Initiatives Nurture Workforce Development

July 1, 2024

Workforce development is a critical piece to consider when developing an infrastructure for large-scale prototype manufacturing and a major component of the success of Microelectronics Commons. Microelectronics Commons, awarded under the CHIPS and Science Act in 2023, is a network of eight prototyping Hubs. As a “lab to fab” regional ecosystem, Commons plays a critical role in laying a solid foundation for future DoD innovation in microelectronics and beyond, and of the larger DoD goal of re-onshoring microelectronics production.

The Commons ecosystem ensures that emerging technologies are nurtured from conception to market readiness by providing a solid workforce development pipeline. Below are recent examples of Hubs’ initiatives focused on creating a solid workforce that impacts U.S.-based microelectronics industry.

Northeast Microelectronics Coalition Hub Gamifies Skill Development

During the Commons Roadshow visits to the eight Hubs earlier this year, Governor of Massachusetts Maura Healy, along with the Healey-Driscoll administration, announced new technology and workforce development grants, with approximately $1.5 million to boost education and workforce development programs in the region.

Under the Northeast Microelectronics Coalition (NEMC) Hub, led by the Massachusetts  Technology Collaborative, partner MITRE utilized state funding to implement an Embedded Capture-the-Flag (CTF) competition to entice students to develop their skills in secure microelectronics. The program leverages gamification to bridge the educational gap in embedded systems security and microelectronics, preparing students to work in this critical field. The eCTF program is designed as a hands-on, project-based learning experience that caters to participants of various skill levels. The program is designed for high school, community college, undergraduate, and graduate students, with a focus on underrepresented groups within the industry.

The program achieved record participation, with 773 students from 95 universities in its 2024 competition. This exemplifies a successful collaboration between government and industry in developing the next generation of cybersecurity professionals, strengthening U.S. leadership in critical technological areas.

Cleanroom Learning Cohorts with California DREAMS Hub

The California Defense Ready Electronics and Microdevices Superhub (DREAMS) Hub, led by the University of Southern California (USC), is conducting a pilot Cleanroom Gateway this summer for specialized learners and undergraduate students with the goal of kickstarting a new pipeline of inspired and qualified workers by giving them their first experiences in a cleanroom setting.

“As a nation we have not maintained our skills in hardware development, outsourcing them instead. Our program addresses each educational stage with specific solutions. We are developing a complete approach to ensure that we have the needed capabilities in one year, five years and 10 years,” Andrea Belz, Viterbi Vice Dean of Transformative Initiatives and DREAMS Director of Translational Strategy said.

According to the Semiconductor Industry Association, the field is expected to add 115,000 new jobs by 2030, but roughly 67,000 of those positions are at risk of going unfilled. DREAMS will be tapping into a community that is often ignored: specialized learners who want to acquire new skills outside of traditional classroom instruction. During this two-week cohort, participants learn the basics of cleanroom operations, earn stackable Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) micro-certifications, learn about obtaining security clearance and more. By making these skills readily available to more people, the Cleanroom Gateway will help train the workforce to meet industry production and innovation goals.

Silicon Crossroads Hub Apprenticeships

The Silicon Crossroads Microelectronics Commons (SCMC) Hub, led by the Applied Research Institute (ARI), has enacted many workforce development initiatives, including the notable CASCADE program.

Administered by Innovate in America in partnership with Synopsys, SEMI Foundation, Purdue University, and MNT-EC, the CASCADE (Commons-Accelerated Silicon Crossroads Apprenticeships for Demands in Engineering) program is pioneering a first-of-a-kind apprentice program to build a chip design talent pipeline.

This groundbreaking initiative not only addresses the impending shortage of skilled chip designers, but also provides a golden opportunity to those who may not otherwise have the option to embark on a traditional four-year college degree. By offering a unique blend of academic study at the Purdue University campus in West Lafayette, IN, and hands-on experiences with industry sponsors while completing remote coursework, the program opens doors for students from diverse backgrounds, including veterans and underrepresented communities.

Purdue University, in collaboration with Synopsys, will provide certification, counseling services, and a tailored curriculum to accommodate full-time work and certificate requirements. Students will be enabled with cloud-based EDA infrastructure to facilitate a real-world commercial tools environment.

The Role of Microelectronics Commons

All eight Hubs of Microelectronics Commons have implemented, or are involved in, unique programs centered around workforce development. These initiatives directly contribute to U.S. competitiveness in workforce development in microelectronics by significantly increasing the workforce pipeline and developing a support network for new students interested in the industry. By providing a comprehensive industry and workforce development pipeline, these ecosystems ensure that emerging technologies are nurtured from conception through to market readiness. Click here to learn more about the eight Hubs of the Microelectronics Commons and their focus areas.


The Strategic & Spectrum Missions Advanced Resilient Trusted Systems (S²MARTS), managed by NSTXL, is the premier rapid OT contracting vehicle for the Department of Defense (DoD) in trusted microelectronics, strategic & spectrum mission, and other critical mission areas. The Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Crane Division created S²MARTS to grow and engage an elite network of innovators, shorten the path to defense prototype development, and advance national security efforts.

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