TLI Joins Minnesota Companies to Prep for Future Tech Labor Demand

Last week the Minnesota CHIPS Workforce Coalition, a network of public and private entities, gathered on the U of M campus to celebrate recent successes in expanding tech manufacturing in Minnesota and lay the groundwork for its next victories. 

The Coalition is devoted to expanding the semiconductor manufacturing capacity in the state, and is already making substantial progress: partner Polar Semiconductor was the recipient of a $125 million federal grant for its semiconductor manufacturing operation, a gift that will rapidly accelerate plans to expand Polar’s capabilities. The Technological Leadership Institute (TLI), the Minnesota Nano Center and a bevy of Twin Cities colleges and technical schools are collaborating to build the educational infrastructure needed to train and upskill the new operators, technicians and managers who will staff these centers. 

The CHIPS team includes some very bright stars in Minnesota’s tech firmament, including HoneywellRaytheon’s Collins AerospacePolar SemiconductorSeagate, and Medtronic. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is also a critical partner in the endeavor. 

“Minnesota’s importance in computer manufacturing goes back to the earliest days of the industry,” said Travis Thul, Director of Operations for TLI. “Control Data, Univac and Cray were all Minnesota based companies, and their success sparked a lot of the tech infrastructure we have here today. The Coalition is designed to work across industry, academia and government entities to create a pathway for rapid future growth. TLI’s role is to provide the technical upskilling needed for those companies to meet the increased demand.”

Katie Staub of Seagate speaks at the CHIPS Working Group convo.
Katie Staub of Seagate speaking to the crowd at the CHIPS Working Group session.

The Minnesota Semiconductor Manufacturing Consortium underpins the CHIPS workforce coalition and includes Polar SemiconductorSeagate,Skywater,Honeywell, Raytheon’s Collins Aerospace, the Minnesota Nano Center  and the Technological Leadership Institute (TLI).  The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is also a major public sector partner. MSMC was formed just over a year ago, and recently celebrated the graduation of the first cohort from TLI’s semiconductor manufacturing program.

TLI and the Minnesota Nano Center are also included in the SCALE (SCalable Asymmetric Lifecycle Engagement) partnership, a Defense department initiative to a) encourage defense-related high-tech manufacturing in the United States and b) guarantee that a skilled domestic workforce will be available to meet the coming demand. Congresswoman Betty McCollum was on hand at last week’s gathering at the Nano Center, along with Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Enabling Technologies Melinda Reed

Rep. Betty McCollum spoke at the SCALE Minnesota program launch last week.
Rep. Betty McCollum spoke at the SCALE Minnesota program launch last week.

Congresswoman McCollum spoke to the group about the urgent need for the U.S. to invest in workforce development in order to ensure a reliable supply of components critical to the nation’s defense. “When I first got to Congress in 2000, everybody talked about workforce, but nobody did anything,” she said. “Now we're serious about doing something and SCALE is what we need in the DoD to get it across the finish line to happen…We don't have the luxury in democracies anymore of thinking [workforce development is] going to happen by happenstance, because China doesn't do it by happenstance. Russia doesn't do it by happenstance. They do it deliberately and they tell people what they're going to do. They tell people what they're going to work on. They direct their budgets to go there. We're a democracy. So it's up to all of us to work together to be part of that team.”

SCALE encourages science and engineering students at the collegiate level to pursue advanced degrees and employment in national security-related fields.  In Minnesota, the focus has been on domestic semiconductor manufacturing, something that has often been outsourced to foreign entities.