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Workshops expose students to careers in semiconductor sector

By Traci DeLore (



ROME, N.Y. — NYDesign recently held two workshops, including one in Rome, designed to boost interest among college students in the semiconductor industry and hopefully inspire the next generation of chip designers.

“This industry is relatively new as far as fundamentally important industries go,” says LaMar Hill, co-founder and executive director of NYDesign. In spite of its newness, “it affects almost everything we do in our daily lives,” he contends. Integrated circuits, commonly called chips, are in pretty much everything we do that uses electricity, he adds.

Recent headlines about shortages and supply chain issues, most notably affecting the automotive industry, have really highlighted the need for a robust presence of chip designers in the U.S.

New York is perfectly positioned to be home to those chip designers, Hill stipulates, with many semiconductor manufacturers and research facilities. Locally, Wolfspeed opened its silicon carbide Mohawk Valley Fab facility in April.

The vision, Hill says, is to foster a complete semiconductor ecosystem in New York from chip designers through to manufacturing, assembly, testing, and packaging.

NYDesign is working toward that vision by partnering with university and community colleges to guide students through the process of creating and designing chips.

To kick things off, the not-for-profit organization held two workshops in June. The June 28 workshop in Rome included students from Mohawk Valley Community College and Cornell University. A second workshop took place a day later in Troy with students from Hudson Valley Community College and several other institutions.

In partnership with Efabless, an open-source platform that enables students to design, fabricate, and verify their own chips, participants received direct experience in being a chip designer, Hill says.

“It stimulated a huge amount of interest from the students that participated,” he says of the workshops. NYDesign is already fielding requests for more of these events from other colleges. His hope is that some of the students that participated consider a career as a chip designer.

Currently, there are at least 20,000 open jobs in the U.S. for chip designers, Hill notes. “We need to graduate a lot more engineers,” he contends.

Kevin Owens, president/CEO of New York State Technology Enterprise Corporation (NYSTEC), 

agrees. NYSTEC, along with the Rensselaer County Industrial Development Agency, helped support the workshops and the efforts of NYDesign.

There is definitely a gap in the design space in the semiconductor industry, Owens says. “We want to bring these jobs back to the U.S. and to New York.”

Headquartered in Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome, NYSTEC works to foster innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. Owens hopes the workshops inspire participating students to not only join the semiconductor industry but also to become entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

NYDesign focuses on growing New York’s capacity for innovation and disruption in the semiconductor industry. The organization says it seeks to democratize access across the state to the skills and tools necessary for creators to design, fabricate, and verify their own integrated circuits. The organization also serves as a resource to support public-private and academic partnerships geared toward innovation and commercialization projects that create growth in high-technology jobs.                     

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