VICTORS program trains veterans for jobs as semiconductor industry technicians

Purdue-developed training program includes online learning, virtual reality and hands-on experience

Purdue University has initiated, and is seeking additional support for, a project to train veterans for jobs in the vital semiconductor industry using a combination of online learning, virtual reality and real-life training.

Participants in the Veterans Inclusion and Competency Toward Semiconductors (VICTORS) program would receive a certificate upon successful completion and a pipeline to internships, advanced training and jobs in the semiconductor industry.

VICTORS is a part of Purdue’s nation-leading Semiconductor Degrees Program (SDP) for advancing all areas of semiconductor workforce development, which is focused on building a trained workforce for the rapid expansion of semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S. — driven by the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, among other things.

Virtually anything electronic, from smartphones to automobiles, has at least one semiconductor chip inside and likely many more. A worldwide shortage and supply chain disruptions made it more difficult to source, produce and ship these vital components during the global pandemic. The situation has the U.S. government and top companies in the industry spurring a major expansion of semiconductor research, development and production capacity.

Despite these efforts, however, an essential component of the semiconductor industry remains in short supply — trained people. Semiconductor technicians perform a variety of equipment calibration, materials preparation, manufacturing and quality control tasks in the fabrication of semiconductor chips.The U.S. semiconductor industry is projected to face a shortage of 70,000 to 90,000 technicians in the next few years. VICTORS is another way that Purdue is addressing this need and advancing all areas of semiconductor education and research and development — from materials to chip design to advanced packaging and more.

“Why veterans? They possess natural leadership ability, discipline, organizational ability, punctuality and decisiveness,” said Muhammad Hussain, the electrical and computer engineering professor who leads the VICTORS project. “If they are interested in a career in semiconductor technology, we would like to assist them with training.”

The training program would cover semiconductor basics, cleanrooms and their safe operation, and semiconductor fabrication processes.

Veterans would train initially with an online course from Purdue and use vFabLab, a virtual chip fabrication simulator developed by Hussain. Accessible from any computer or mobile device, vFabLab is like the flight simulators that pilots train on before landing in a real-life cockpit. It presents a detailed view of a modern cleanroom environment and steps users through the processes involved in fabricating semiconductor devices.

“If we use this kind of virtualization and then bring the trained people into the physical space, they are far more aware, fully ready and can actually get things done at a very fast pace,” Hussain said.

After that, the students would do live training, potentially in Mobile Fab, an idea Hussain has for a future mobile cleanroom and semiconductor chip fabrication facility in a semi-tractor trailer that could move to where it’s needed.

The live training would qualify participants for industry internships and advanced training in cutting-edge chip fabrication once they are recruited for full-time jobs in the industry.

Hussain worked with federal, state and local Department of Veterans Affairs representatives to identify five veterans for a pilot project in the spring of 2023. None of the participants had semiconductor experience. They received 20 hours of online and virtual training, including a virtual session arranged by Intel to discuss career aspects with Intel employees who also are veterans, and 20 hours of training in the cleanroom at Purdue’s Birck Nanotechnology Center. One of the veterans in the pilot already has obtained a job in the semiconductor industry and three of the others are pursuing related opportunities.

Industry, government agencies and others interested in information about participating in VICTORS can contact