The CHIPS and Science Act was passed in 2022, a $280 billion investment designed to stimulate production of semiconductors in the United States and keep the country competitive in key industries of the future.

Details for the program's first few funding opportunities have now been released, providing employers with more clarity about the kinds of opportunities that may await them, as well as any challenges.

With engineering talent already in short supply, infusing billions of dollars into the domestic semiconductor market will only serve to further disrupt the balance between jobs and job seekers. Solving the shortage, however, can't be ignored. The success of semiconductor manufacturing in America rests in no small part on the ability of employers to not only create opportunities but find and hire the great talent needed to sustain them.

facts on the first round of funding

The Department of Commerce is responsible for overseeing the act's first major funding program, with $50 billion total dollars allocated  — including $39 billion worth of semiconductor incentives.

Employers interested in procuring funds will send applications to the department and be evaluated on how closely their business proposition meets the requirements.

As of now, funding has been set aside for "projects to construct, expand, or modernize commercial facilities for the production of leading-edge, current-generation, and mature-node semiconductors. This includes both front-end wafer fabrication and back-end packaging."

If this doesn't align with your company's current goals, remember this is only the first in a series of funding opportunities. The Department also has plans for additional rounds focused on semiconductor materials and equipment in the late spring and another for research and development facilities, slated for the fall.

With regards to the form these funds will take, employers that qualify can expect some combination of direct funding, federal loans and/or federal guarantees of third-party loans. It's important to note that these awards are meant to be complementary pieces of a diverse funding portfolio. In its newly released Vision for America, CHIPS for America cited private investment activity as a main program goal, and applicants are encouraged to bring additional capital to the table.

assessing the shortage

The semiconductor industry was already facing a talent shortage, and now, with increased semiconductor activity getting set to take off in the United States — it's likely to get worse.

Employers were already in need of one million more skilled workers by 2030 in order to fill semiconductor roles — a projection which would require an influx of 100,000 highly skilled workers into the job market each year. The problem? That's more than the amount of graduate students currently enrolled in U.S. electrical engineering and computer science programs combined.

CHIPS for America presents a historic opportunity to participate in the growth of a key domestic industry, but employers run the risk of missing out if their talent strategies aren't up to par. Job seeker expectations are changing, and with more engineering opportunities to choose from, in-demand talent will have the luxury of choosing employers that check all of their boxes.

how to stay competitive for talent

Recent research from Randstad revealed a few of these new, need-to-meet preferences. As employers start assembling funding bids, they should also make sure they dedicate time to creating an equally compelling proposition for talent:

support work-life balance

Over 60 percent of workers wouldn't accept a job if it disrupted their work-life balance.

focus on flexibility

Remote work is here to stay: 40 percent of employees said they'd require remote/hybrid arrangements from an employer, with 27 percent having left a role that wasn't flexible enough.

embrace your values

For 77 percent of today's employees, working for employers that align with their values on sustainability, diversity and transparency is important.

Prioritizing these preferences, along with providing competitive pay, will put employers in the best position to find engineers despite the shortage.

key takeaways

Fortunately, the CHIPS and Science Act also set aside $13.2 billion for research and development initiatives, which includes support for workforce training. However, until these changes have time to take root in the general talent pool, starting a candidate search in specialized networks can provide an edge over the competition.

As part of the world's largest staffing firm, Randstad Engineering can help organizations find talent from our vast network of vetted professionals. By sourcing engineering candidates who fit each workplace, employers won't have to worry about sacrificing candidate quality for speed. Our solutions experts can devise tailored strategies to tackle employee engagement, retention and workforce management to keep teams together and performing at a high level long after the hiring is done.

As domestic semiconductor production heats up, employers that have to divert time and resources away to backfilling positions will find it hard to get ahead. In the words of the act's initial announcement, the race for the 21st century has just begun. Learn more about how Randstad can help you get the talent and tools you need to meet your workforce goals along the way.