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  /  World News   /  US semiconductor makers face acute staff shortages

US semiconductor makers face acute staff shortages

(NewsNation) — It could be the ultimate immigration irony. The U.S. has spent billions of dollars to help revive domestic semiconductor manufacturing to reduce our dependence on plants in Asia. But U.S. production will hit a ceiling without a new wave of skilled chip fabricators. And right now, the only place to find those skilled workers is Asia.

“Companies need workers the US doesn’t have,” wrote the Bloomberg editorial board in a June article.

The Semiconductor Industry Association says chipmakers will face a shortfall of 67,000 skilled workers by the end of this decade. The big reason, says Bloomberg: The current H-1B visa program doesn’t allow enough skilled workers each year.

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Country-by-country limits on applications also keep thousands from India, the largest source of high-skilled workers, out of the pipeline.

Many high-tech companies are partnering with colleges and universities to fund semiconductor-related training programs. But those long-term strategies don’t solve the immediate problem. Some U.S. firms continue to export jobs.

Adding to the problem are the thousands of high-tech engineers earning master’s and Ph.D. degrees that don’t stay in the U.S. That’s because more than half of them are from other countries.

The Economic Innovation Group suggests that a short-term fix would be creating a “chipmaker’s visa.” The idea is to auction off visas for high-tech workers, let the recipients change jobs within the industry if needed, and gain an expedited path to obtaining a green card after five years. Proceeds from the auctions would fund scholarships and development programs for Americans.

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The jobs will be there, thanks to the Chips and Science Act passed in 2020. It’s funneled more than $50 billion in subsidies and loans to put the domestic chipmaking industry on a path to triple its manufacturing capacity by 2030. But that won’t happen without the workers to make those chips.

“Many in Congress are proud of the Chips Act. If they ignore the skilled-worker shortage, it will become an embarrassment,” Bloomberg wrote.