“Our students are why this program exists,” Marcia Ballinger , Ph.D., president of Lorain County Community College told Lt. Gov. Jon Husted following his visit to LCCC’s Desich SMART Commercialization Center Sept. 13.
Husted’s visit comes as part of his New Generation Jobs Tour, which seeks to gather information regarding rising career paths and colleges that will contribute to the ever-growing Ohio workforce.
Into the lab
Upon arrival, Husted was greeted by LCCC MEMS coordinator Johnny Vanderford, who showed the increasingly popular clean room laboratories located on campus.
“What we do in here, is micro-electronic packaging and manufacturing for semiconductor industries,” Vanderford said. “In this program, we train students, to not only to do manufacture of silicon wafers, but we also train them to make printed circuit boards.”
Vanderford showed Husted the process of creating individualized dye which go on to create circuit boards using the state-of-the-art equipment the clean labs offer.
“The process of placing this into a micro controller isn’t that far similar from playing a carnival claw game in terms of difficulty, and requires steady hands and machinery to do the job,” Vanderford said.
The MEMS program
The MEMS program which first began at LCCC in 2014,quickly has grown to include Ohio’s first ever community college applied bachelor’s degree as part of the core curriculum.
The program centers around an earn-and-learn model in which students are going to school two days and work the other three.
“We actually had a waiting list to enter the program earlier this year, but have since expanded the number of students in the program,” Vanderford said. “But the real problem we have been running into, is meeting the company demands as so many companies are excited to have our students.”
Starting in week one of the courses, students already are working in the lab.
Within the first year of the program, most students have jobs with the various companies throughout the state.
Drawing in the corporations
Of the many corporations that employ LCCC MEMs students, Intel recently has joined the list signing on the college to fuel its Silicon Valley workhorse, which will be the biggest semiconductor plant on the planet once completed.
By the numbers
Husted discussed the importance of such a program, noting its impact particularly as of late.
“Back in the 80s, 90s and 2000s, a decision was made that our country would become a labor economy, but the work would be done in outside nations,” he said. “Since then, the rise of hostile regimes, and especially the supply chain issues from the COVID-19 pandemic, has taught us that we need to move back into the U.S. for work.”
The industry which currently sits at $550 billion, is expected to grow into a $1.3 trillion industry by the end of 2030, officials said.
Right now, there are 169 existing companies in 29 counties across Ohio that are Intel suppliers and rely on workers like LCCC’s MEMs students for their industry.
“I am very excited to learn more about the LCCC programs, and hopefully, me and the senators and representatives, can learn more to take this process further and build this silicon heartland that has been forming,” Husted said.
For Ballinger, it is the students that fuel the MEMs program. “The program offers students an opportunity to advance in their careers at zero student debt cost.”
And the students themselves couldn’t agree more.
“I have been with the program for about three years now and I absolutely love it. I am a lab assistant now so I get to see all the inner workings and the opportunities the MEMs program offers is truly amazing,” said student Ryan Ealmer.
The program will continue its work and plans to supply Intel with students by the handful as the industry continues to grow, officials said.
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