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Colleges Gearing Up to Help Shape Workforce for Micron

By Stefan Yablonski

April Arnzen is a senior vice president and chief people officer for Micron and president of the Micron Foundation.

Micron Technology’s facility in Clay won’t be operational for a couple years. But leaders in academia and industry have already begun to address the specific workforce needs of Central New York’s newest business.

There is opportunity for everyone — cities, colleges and Micron, according to April Arnzen, senior vice president and chief people officer, Micron and president of the Micron Foundation. She participated in a town hall event on April 27 — hosted by SUNY Oswego.

Site preparation is set to begin next year, with construction starting in 2024 and production in volume beginning after 2025, Arnzen said.

Micron’s investment will create up to 50,000 new jobs, including 9,000 high-paying jobs directly with Micron, Arnzen said. The plant will create fabs (chips made of silicon wafers) with integrated circuits that will power things like computers, phones and other electronic devices.

A project this size knows no county lines, Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow pointed out. Oswego County and all its partners must be ready.

“Oswego residents and certainly people living here and going to school here will be affected and impacted by this project,” he said at the recent town hall meeting.

Local community colleges as well as Syracuse University and SUNY Oswego are offering programs which match up with job openings created by Micron.

“SUNY Oswego is dedicated to working with our local, state and federal partners, legislative members, regional and state economic development partners, SUNY leadership, as well as with other higher education institutions to help prepare our region for Micron’s historic investment in Central New York,” said Mary C. Toale, officer in charge. “Micron’s investment will impact all facets of our communities and now is the time to work together intentionally to secure the future of generations.”

“SUNY Oswego’s community of learning prepares students and readies them for the workforce. Our mission is to contribute to the common good — SUNY Oswego contributes to the common good by lighting the path to wisdom and empowering every person in the university community to pursue a meaningful life as a productive, responsible member of society,” Toale added.

As part of Micron Technology’s $100 billion plan to transform the Central New York community into the nation’s leading producer of semiconductor fabrications, Syracuse University has been tapped to play a key role in building and training the workforce of the future that will power Micron’s Clay facility.

Together with the Central New York business community, trade unions, community colleges and other four-year institutions in New York state and beyond, Micron and Syracuse University will implement a multi-dimensional and inclusive approach to workforce development, upskilling and professional retention, Syracuse University News reported in October 2022.

Future Professors Fellowship Program will focus on the quantum and chips cluster at Syracuse University, which is designed to enhance capacity for cutting-edge research in these domains, they added.

The college is also creating a Micron internship program which will prepare students for full-time positions as engineers, scientists and other critical roles in the semiconductor industry.

Engineering programs are going to be in high demand. But Micron will also need people with majors in technology, physics, chemistry and other related fields, Arnzen emphasized.

There is much Micron-related excitement at Onondaga Community College, according to Roger Mirabito, executive director of communications.

OCC’s programs already offer training needed to fill multiple positions at Micron down the road, he noted. Plus, the college plans to create a cleanroom — an enclosed space used in manufacturing to keep particulars and other contaminants away.

“We will be building a cleanroom simulation lab in existing space in our current bookstore in the Whitney Applied Technology Center on campus.

Construction on that will begin this summer and should be completed by the fourth quarter of 2024,” he said.

The space will be a vital tool for OCC to prepare their students for a job at Micron’s Clay campus which will be home to the nation’s largest cleanroom at approximately 2.4 million square feet, the length of nearly 40 football fields.

Professors will be able to tailor their curriculum to micron-specific needs, he added.

“The New York State Education Department just approved two new Micron-related programs which we will begin offering students in the fall,” Mirabito said.

Electromechanical Technology Associate in Applied Science

It is a two-year degree program focusing on the troubleshooting of electrical and mechanical systems.

Students will gain a fundamental understanding of technology used in advanced manufacturing and apply that knowledge to address faults and processing problems. They will learn how electrical signals are used to communicate and control automated devices in the manufacturing environment, how to interact and program common industrial systems and how to apply mechanical and hydraulic systems to provide motion and function.

The students learn problem solving techniques for breaking down complex problems and analyzing them to effectively identify appropriate solutions, Mirabito continued.

Instructional areas include industrial automation, robotics, hydraulic and pneumatic systems, mechanisms, industrial electricity, programming and motors, controllers and motion.

Electromechanical Technology certificate program

This is a one-year certificate program which touches on the foundational skills and knowledge in the two-year degree program and prepares students for entry-level work.

Credits earned can be put toward the two-year electromechanical technology Associate of Applied Science degree.

The students who complete the degree program will be able to work in many places, including Micron as a “technician.” Each of Micron’s four chip fabs will require 1,000 technicians.

“SUNY Oswego’s curriculum has strong connections with preparing students for careers at Micron and beyond. Our electrical and computer engineering and computer science programs, where students are already participating in significant hands-on opportunities that are directly tied to industry need, is integral to Micron’s workforce needs,” said Scott Furlong, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Students in our technology education and technology management programs, which are unique within the state, are also well prepared for careers.”

SUNY Oswego’s faculty and programs outside of these disciplines—including K-12, STEAM, business and more—“are developing students with skills in critical thinking, teamwork, and problem solving for the opportunities beyond Micron that the region will need,” Furlong added. “All SUNY Oswego students are prepared to continue their learning, further develop their career readiness, and evolve as new opportunities arise.”

As Oswego County’s public comprehensive university and an economic engine for the region, SUNY Oswego embraces its vital role of working hand-in-hand with elected officials from all levels of state government and with other leaders and key external partners from across Oswego County to contribute to an action plan that describes goals and outcomes for county constituencies to achieve over the next five years in preparation for Micron’s opening and subsequent decades-long impact upon Central New York, according to Kristi Eck, chief of staff and executive director of strategic initiatives, external partnerships and legislative affairs.

“Over the next few months, the Oswego County Micron strategy steering committee and work groups will be gathering information from business and community members to help form Oswego County’s action plan,” Eck said. “Together, the steering committee and related work groups are preparing for the launch of Micron and its early years in Central New York — with an eye toward how Oswego County will be transformed over the next two decades.”

“SUNY Oswego is proud to be an economic driver in the greater Oswego community and serve as the lead convener of the Oswego County Micron strategy steering committee, which includes Oswego County’s elected officials at all levels: NYS Assembly, Senate, county and city, and a diverse group of leaders and stakeholders across Oswego County who are committed to serving as a comprehensive, unified and visionary strategy-creating and implementing body. This committee was created to bring partners together to formally discuss, position and plan for Oswego County’s role as vital partners in Micron’s investment in our region,” Toale said.

“We are fortunate to work in a community that is looking forward and preparing to take action together to illuminate, utilize, and strengthen Oswego County’s assets and position our community today and well into the future.”