In Texas, We’re Building the ‘Other Collar’ Workforce
At Samsung Austin Semiconductor, we take pride in being one of the largest and most advanced semiconductor manufacturing facilities in the U.S. — representing one of the largest direct foreign investments in Texas’ history.
We are equally as proud to have put down roots in Texas to be a major contributor to Austin’s society and economy. Since we opened in 1997, we’ve grown to a workforce of more than 3,000 employees. And we’re just getting started.
To meet the increasing demands for advanced system-on-chip products for mobile and electronic devices, we’re expanding our $16 billion USD manufacturing operations by $1 billion this year. This means expanded recruiting, training and hiring up and down the skills spectrum — from GEDs to PhDs.
We are especially committed to creating pathways to good jobs here in our own backyard. We have been practicing local recruitment ever since SAS began evolving and expanding to fully automated, 300 millimeter technology. We realized that we could combine our corporate values with what made the most business sense by developing a solid skill-building pathway here in Texas.
In Austin, Samsung is primarily a manufacturing company. Over half of our jobs do not require a college degree, but do require specialized training. As a result, our focus at SAS is on building programs and partnerships that develop the skills needed to fill these good-paying ‘other collar’ jobs. We’re doing this by preparing a training pipeline that begins in high school and moves on through post-high school technical preparation and community college technical education.
To accomplish this goal, we work with nonprofit and government partners right here in Austin and in the region to tap into the potential of students from our high schools, community and technical colleges to create a competitive workforce.
As Dr. Royce Avery, superintendent of Manor Independent School District, has explained, public schools in Texas and elsewhere around the country are increasingly challenged to fund an equitable education for all students, including those in disadvantaged and low-income communities.
This is where corporate partnerships with leading technology firms like Samsung come in. SAS is part of the Capital Area Workforce Solutions Board, a backbone organization devoted to workforce development with a focus on bringing 10,000 Texans from low-income communities into skilled, higher wage jobs through training and education.
We are also working closely with Austin Mayor Steve Adler, nonprofit partners and local school districts like Manor to strengthen this other collar workforce pipeline through educations programs right here on our very own campus.
Our programs include the following apprenticeships and initiatives:
Semiconductor manufacturing covers a wide range of specialized jobs, such as the installation and management of huge, ultrapure water systems requiring electricians and plumbers to work on complex filtration and piping systems. This is just one example of the many types of jobs we need at our Austin semiconductor fabrication facility, or “fab” as it is known. These same skills are also needed by our outside contractors who have staff permanently on the fab site with us.
We are beginning work with social services groups, including Goodwill Industries, on an Opportunity Youth program, to identify young people between the ages of 18 and 22 to enroll in skills training at our facility, hired by our outside staffing company. So far, we have about a half-dozen young people in this program, making $15 an hour with full benefits, and we are looking for other social services partners.
Post-High School Apprenticeships
We also are working with public schools in Travis County and expanding into Central Texas to make available apprenticeships for qualified high school grads who cannot afford college but want to find a path toward a two-year or four-year degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field.
It began in 2016 with “parents’ night” meetings in Austin and Round Rock school districts where Samsung answered questions about how the program would work. The selected graduates start with a nine-week summer internship program, followed by a two-year paid apprenticeship at the SAS facility in Austin.
Community College Apprenticeships
This SAS high school apprenticeship program also connects to our partnerships with Austin Community College, where it’s possible for qualified apprentices to obtain Samsung-provided associate’s degrees, followed by a solid job offer at the end of two years.
White House Joining Forces Initiative
As part of our pledge to former President Obama’s White House Joining Forces Initiatives, we are systemically integrating Veterans into the SAS workforce. The military personnel are a key talent pool for us, with skills and abilities naturally transferable to semiconductor manufacturing. Although this is not specifically a local initiative, SAS offers on-site courses for Veterans joining us from Ft. Hood, among other military installations in Texas and around the country.
For us, a workforce armed with a unique set of skills specific to semiconductor manufacturing is at the heart of our operations.
Therefore, attracting and retaining talent at Samsung Austin Semiconductor is a major challenge for us as we seek to expand and grow our business in the United States. The skills required today as compared with what it took when we first opened our fab just twenty years ago are quite different. Automated and computer-driven equipment have become quite advanced and sophisticated, which means the specialists and technicians we hire today need more complex skills and also need to be able to keep adapting and learning new ones as our industry continues to evolve.
Even though these technician jobs do not require a four-year college degree, they offer the kind of career path that is valued today as the U.S. considers policies designed to boost manufacturing and other highly skilled jobs.
We believe that our commitment to workforce development in partnership with state, local and national organizations will reap dividends not only for Samsung, but also for Texas and the nation.
[i] Impact DataSource (2016): A Report of the Economic and Fiscal Impact During 2015 of Samsung Austin Semiconductor, LLC in Austin Texas. Austin, Texas: Impact DataSource.