Lisa Strothers had just been laid off in Phoenix, Arizona. As a single mother, she was focused on figuring out how she was going to support her family. Then, she got an email from Fresh Start Women’s Foundation about a new program that could train her to become a technician in the semiconductor industry in just two weeks. It was a path that she’d never even considered, but she decided to give it a chance.
That email and Intel’s relationship with Fresh Start, an Arizona nonprofit focused on providing education, resources, and support for women, are part of Intel’s efforts to establish new approaches to encouraging people to consider a career in semiconductor manufacturing. In Arizona and soon Oregon, Intel is working with local community colleges and other organizations like Fresh Start to increase awareness and provide a unique and inclusive pathway to our industry to secure entry-level technician jobs at Intel, our suppliers, and even other semiconductor manufacturers in the region. Manufacturing technicians are vital to factory operations, donning the classic Intel cleanroom bunnysuit and keep the factory running smoothly, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Announced earlier this year with the First Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden, Quick Start is a workforce development program with Maricopa Community Colleges in Arizona. A joint initiative spearheaded by Intel’s technology development and manufacturing organizations, the accelerated two-week course prepares students for a rewarding career as a semiconductor technician with hands-on learning from industry experienced Intel employees as instructors.
Currently offered at three community colleges in the Phoenix metropolitan area, close to two hundred people have already completed the program, with many securing opportunities at Intel and other companies in the semiconductor industry. Lisa Strothers is one of them.
After participating in and passing the course with a cohort comprised of Fresh Start women, Lisa and several others interviewed (and were hired!) with Intel and started in late August. Just over one month in, Lisa reflected on her new beginning as a technician supporting Intel’s Ocotillo manufacturing operations. “Going into the fab is like visiting another planet,” Lisa explained. “It’s unreal, but my team has been so helpful, and I know my manager has faith in me.”
Technicians like Lisa are able to work a compressed schedule of 12 hour shifts, 3 and 4 days a week. “The compressed shift has been amazing,” she shares. “It definitely required an adjustment for my daughter and me, but it’s been liberating to have time to myself on my days off, and time with my daughter. I love being able to drop her off and pick her up from school on the weekdays I don’t have work.”
And, by design, the course is providing inclusive pathways to semiconductor manufacturing. According to Maricopa Community Colleges, at least 60% of the course participants have been underrepresented minorities so far. A further 53% were the first in their family to take a higher education course.
“The skills learned through the Quick Start semiconductor program at MCC that lead to a job at Intel are a life-changing combo for Fresh Start women,” shared Kim McWaters, Fresh Start CEO. “Our goal is to provide education and employment opportunities that give women a pathway to self-sufficient earnings, so they can support themselves and their families. This program achieves that goal, along with giving women self-confidence, camaraderie, and an opportunity for career advancement. We’re excited to share this opportunity with the women we work with and grateful for the partnership with Intel and Maricopa Community Colleges.”
When asked what she’s most excited about with her new Intel career, Lisa didn’t have to think long. “I’m excited about the growth opportunities!” And her advice for others deciding on a new path? “Keep your eyes open and be willing to go outside your comfort zone. Stay encouraged and the opportunity will come to you.”
You can learn more about the Arizona program and upcoming courses at Maricopa.edu/semico. Find more information on Fresh Start at freshstartwomen.org. For information about the initiative in Oregon, visit the PCC.edu website.
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