Marion's tech educators rejoice for $20 billion microchip plant coming to Ohio

·6 min read
An aerial rendering of what Intel's $20 billion microchip plant could look like that is planned for Jersey Township in Licking County.
An aerial rendering of what Intel's $20 billion microchip plant could look like that is planned for Jersey Township in Licking County.

"America's workforce development capital," boasting Marion Technical College, RAMTEC and key manufacturing facilities, Marion is a tech-focused community.

Friday, Intel announced plans to invest $20 billion in Licking County to construct two semiconductor microchip factories to meet the surging demand through driven partly by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This marks the largest single private-sector investment in Ohio's history, and it is expected to create 3,000 jobs with Intel and 7,000 construction jobs needed for the build, which is scheduled to begin later this year and to be operational by 2025.

This is good news for Marion's tech education programs.

Intel plans to invest $100 million over the next 10 years in partnership with Ohio universities, community colleges and the U.S. National Science Foundation to build the workforce needed for the new plant.

This investment will go toward collaborative research projects and building semiconductor-specific coursework for associate and undergraduate degree programs.

For The Ohio State University's regional campuses including The Ohio State University at Marion, the news of the plant coming to central Ohio is exciting in light of the bachelor of science in engineering technology program that launched in 2020 exclusively through the Lima, Mansfield and Marion campuses.

Specifically geared toward setting students up to be highly skilled and equipped for plant managerial roles, the first class of graduates will graduate in Spring 2024: just a year before the Intel facilities are set to open for production.

The Ohio Manufacturing Institute (OMI) at Ohio State Executive Director Kathryn Kelley said the timing of the project couldn't be better for the students in the program who may be interested in a career with Intel.

“We do believe that the regional campuses offering this new engineering technology program are definitely geared toward the types of careers that will take place at Intel," Kelley said.

"These are graduates with advanced systems-level and management skills. They understand process engineering and they can integrate between production, supply chain and logistics. So, they have that broadly based skillset that Intel will need.”

Curriculum adjustments

For students in the engineering technology program at Ohio State Marion and the other regional campuses, the curriculum can be tailored to meet the need for industry knowledge related to microchip production, as the program was designed to be adaptable given current manufacturing needs.

Staff hope the opportunities created by Intel will encourage more students to enroll in the program and foresee increased opportunities for research, internships and experiential learning from partnership with the global corporation.

“It’s not a static program. We do expect and we had already expected that the curriculum would adapt to manufacturers needs because not only do the manufacturers change but the technologies change,” Kelley said.

This is also true for Marion Technical College.

Marion Tech's Director of Workforce Solutions, Mike Augenstein, explained the flexibility in its programming, especially with regard to increased online learning as result of the pandemic, will expand opportunities for students.

“As things like this are built in Ohio, then we have a need to fill, which means there will be new degree programs, new certificate programs. We move at the speed of business, so as they need people with a certain skillset, we adapt to train those people,” Augenstein said.

Opportunities to Marion County students

With this shift toward online and hybrid education Marion Tech is advancing, Augenstein said he has hope for students in Marion County who are interested in jobs with Intel as teleworking and remote learning have become the new normal.

“As a college, we have adapted to this even more. Obviously we had online classes before, but we will be able to train people almost wherever they are in the skills they will need to do these jobs,” he said.

Now that workplaces are primarily hybrid or operating on a work-from-home basis, Marion Tech will encourage its students to consider pursuing a career with the plant since it is not only a reasonable distance, but also the new reality of many workplaces does not require coming into a physical office five days per week.

Due to Marion's strategic location along U.S. 23 and its strong logistic presence, opportunities with supporting industries will likewise grow due to Intel's presence in central Ohio, Augenstein explained.

“When you get a huge facility like that, there are supporting industries that will also be created. So it’s not just this one thing: it’s all the ancillary industries. We could end up being part of that supply chain; we’re located right off 23,” he said.

“It is a huge economic boost, and it’s not just that one facility: they’ll need support,”

A rendering of what Intel's $20 billion microchip plant could look like that is planned for Jersey Township in Licking County.
A rendering of what Intel's $20 billion microchip plant could look like that is planned for Jersey Township in Licking County.

For students pursuing jobs in manufacturing or logistics, the new plant will thus likely increase opportunities within Marion to help support its operations.

One related industry which will be positively affected is the automotive industry.

Boosting Marion's economy

Joe Ballinger, owner of Marion-based car dealership Midwest Auto Group LLC explained the production of chips in the next few years will help help address the need that has been placing strain on the industry.

He also said Intel's presence in the Greater Columbus area will cause an economic boost, pointing back to the opportunities in education the plant will bring to Ohio's students.

"These are extremely highly skilled jobs, very high pay, and that’s going to trickle down to a lot of things as far as the education that is going to help," Ballinger said.

Marion will likely not be excluded from these opportunities, he explained.

"I think we’re close enough that it could help the local economy as far as education in the tech industry. It’s going to be close enough that people could drive from Marion to work there,” Ballinger said.

RAMTEC Ohio's Robotic Coordinator Mark Edington said the creation of chips would address the shortages within the automotive industry, one of the major industries where graduates of the RAMTEC program often work.

“We all know the microchips are an issue right now in the automobile industry," Edington said.

Edington explained that his students exit the program with highly developed skills and manufacturing credentials. This makes them able to meet the workforce needs which will be required to supply Intel's supporting industries with skilled workers.

“Our students come out of this program here with a multitude of certifications, qualifications, and I have them placed in all kinds of different jobs all over, whether its Whirlpool, Honda, Bridgestone, US Yachiyo, all sorts of different venues are students are in coming out of this engineering program,” he said.

Story by: Sophia Veneziano (740) 564 - 5243 | sveneziano@gannett.com

This article originally appeared on Marion Star: What $20 billion microchip plant means for Marion

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