Columbus State Community College is creating a pipeline to Intel. Here’s how.

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Chris Dennis clicked through his PowerPoint slides to a promotional video and pressed play. Clips of gas distribution systems flicked on the screen.

Dennis, an associate professor of supply chain management at Columbus State Community College, wasn’t trying to sell his class on anything. Rather, he wants them to be prepared.

“Swagelock makes a lot of equipment for Intel,” Dennis said, taking another swig from a bottle of Mountain Dew. “These are some of the different controls you’ll see on the line.”

Dennis is one of several professors teaching the first official cohort of Columbus State students who hope to land jobs at Intel’s $20-billion microchip manufacturing plants in Licking County.

A two-year associate degree might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about a career in semiconductor engineering. Columbus State is trying to change that.

While many of Intel’s engineering jobs require a bachelor’s degree or higher, at least 70% of workers at its future Licking County-based fabs will be technicians, a role that only requires an associate degree. That means Columbus State and Ohio’s nearly two dozen other community and technical colleges are working overtime to build the pipeline Intel needs to fill thousands of jobs.

“Intel puts a high value on technician roles and technician-level education,” said Columbus State Community College President David Harrison.

Many of Intel’s leaders started out at community colleges, Harrison said. People like Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, who earned an associate degree from Lincoln Technical Institute in New Jersey before going on to Santa Clara University and later, Stanford University. It’s one of the reasons that Columbus State was an early stakeholder in talks to recruit Intel to Ohio.

“We want to make sure people in Columbus can follow that same career path,” Harrison said.

Intel investment used to create new community college curriculum

It’s been a year since Intel announced it would invest $17.7 million over three years to fund eight projects involving more than 80 Ohio colleges and universities to develop semiconductor education and workforce programs.

One of those projects was the Ohio Semiconductor Collaboration Network. Intel awarded $2.8 million to a group of 23 community and technical colleges, led by Columbus State, to build and sustain a technician pipeline in the state by adding semiconductor-specific courses and equipment to existing advanced manufacturing programs.