Intel runs TV commercials during Sunday Night Football to recruit workers

Ads for Intel job openings run during Sunday Night Football. These jobs only require a high school diploma and the ability to spend all day on your feet.

PORTLAND, Oregon – Intel began running TV commercials during the Portland air of Sunday Night Football, one of the most popular programs on the air – but not to peddle its CPUs.

He tries to attract workers.

And in an age when the most entry-level job seekers are in demand at restaurants, hotels, bus companies, and healthcare clinics, Intel’s pitch may be to try the making of advanced microcircuits instead.

The microelectronics industry faces a particular labor shortage. Demand is on the rise in almost all chip companies. And Intel, the state’s largest employer, plans to open a $ 3 billion plant extension in Hillsboro early next year, which will create hundreds more jobs.

Electronics companies big and small say they’re struggling to find workers, so they’re putting up billboards, buying TV and radio ads, and hiring new hires yet to the job. school to fill the holes.

“I think a lot of people have this misconception that Intel is that black box or that Intel only hires people with masters or doctorates,” the Intel spokeswoman said, Elly Akopyan. She said the company’s ad campaign was aimed at demystifying chipmaking and making it clear that it’s a job almost anyone can do.

“We need to create a pipeline of manufacturing workers to come and work for us,” Akopyan said.

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Oregon exported $ 15 billion worth of electronics last year, or 60% of all the state’s exports. The state’s electronics production grew a further 26% in the first half of 2021, reflecting the huge demand for chips that power computers, smartphones, cars, trucks and home appliances.

Manufacturers in the Portland area would definitely make more chips – if only they could find the workers to do the job.

“It seems every other week I get a call saying, ‘I could hire 100 people right now,’ said Eric Kirchner, chair of the microelectronics department at Portland Community College. Intel didn’t say the labor shortage was restricting production, but many others in the industry did.

Technology is one of Oregon’s largest industries, as important to the state’s economy today as lumber was at its peak in the 1970s. And electronics manufacturing pays well. .

Chipmaking equipment supplier Watlow said last week it was hiring 20 technicians for its Hillsboro site at a starting salary of $ 25 an hour, with a retention bonus for those who stay in the plant. company and an annual company performance bonus.

Microelectronics graduates from Portland Community College typically earn a starting salary of around $ 60,000 after completing the two-year program, according to Kirchner. And he said wages rise sharply as workers gain experience.

Still, Kirchner said recruiting has always been a challenge. The work is usually done out of sight, in windowless clean rooms that protect the electronics from any contamination, even microscopic. So there is very little awareness of what work is, he said, let alone what he pays.

“People think, oh this is high tech, I don’t understand high tech. I can’t do this, ”Kirchner said. “Anyone can be a technician. We will train you on the technical stuff. You need people who can work in a team and show up for work on time and manage a schedule or follow a procedure or checklist. You don’t have to be a technical genius to do this stuff.

Of the 21,000 Intel employees in Oregon, about 10% have doctorates. The company’s Washington County campuses are home to its most advanced research.

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But for the jobs Intel advertises on TV, it’s only looking for a high school diploma – and the ability to spend all day on your feet.

Austin Robertson had planned to become a nurse after graduating from high school seven years ago. But a few years after his training, he decided it wasn’t for him. After working at Safeway and a Columbia County jail, a friend suggested that Robertson try electronics manufacturing instead.

So he started an associate’s degree program at Portland Community College. Robertson takes classes intermittently and therefore does not expect to complete classes within two years. But Intel hired him anyway. He is in his third month as a technician, he is learning on the job and adapting to his college courses according to his work schedule.

“I love it. It’s the best job I’ve had,” said Robertson. He said he thinks he’s found a career that makes sense, working in a high-tech industry and learning how to get to know a new area.

“It’s just to work with a lot of knowledgeable people and to work with practical stuff,” said Robertson. “I just feel like I’m doing something important.”

This is exactly the sort of thing manufacturers want to hear from their new hires. But there don’t seem to be many other people who think this way.

With wages on the rise in Oregon’s industries and job openings plentiful, Kirchner said many people are choosing to work instead of enrolling in his program.

“We’re about as low as I can remember with the number of students starting the program, which really hurts,” Kirchner said. “That means in two years we’re not going to get a lot of graduates. “

While many people can learn on the job, Kirchner said the additional education would help them progress and position them for promotions and higher pay, while also making them more productive over the course of their careers.

Manufacturing equipment supplier Lam Research has created 1,000 jobs over the past 18 months at its 52-acre Tualatin campus and plans to hire 300 more for a new plant to open this fall in nearby town of Sherwood. To meet this increased demand, Lam has hired first-year electronics students at Portland Community College to work part-time while they continue their education.

“The technicians are so unavailable, along with the associate in applied science, that they said, ‘We’re going to develop ours,” said Bill Manley, a CCP employment specialist who works with the industry. microelectronics.

Electronics manufacturers say it takes about two months for a new employee to get to grips with the basics of the job and a year to be fully qualified in certain areas. So there is no quick fix in sight for an industry that would prefer to hire experienced workers.

“We use hiring more people and longer training periods and hope that we can train people over time. But they don’t really become effective quickly, ”said Frank Nichols, store founder of Vancouver-based manufacturer Silicon Forest Electronics. He said his clients had planned a year of work for his company, but the shortage of hires limits the extent to which he can profit from it.

“The outlook is very rosy, actually,” Nichols said, “if we can find the people.”

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