Santa Barbara News-Press: Senators Padilla and Warnock push to bolster diversity in semiconductor workforce

By Katherine Zehnder

U.S. Sens. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., and Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., Wednesday applauded the passage of the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors for America Act.

The legislation passed in the Senate by a vote of 64-33.

According to Sen. Padilla’s office, the CHIPS Act is intended to create jobs, lower costs, support national security, boost domestic manufacturing, strengthen domestic supply chains and preserve American competitiveness in the 21st century.

The legislation includes a provision Sens. Padilla and Warnock championed to ensure jobs created through the legislation serve disadvantaged groups and bolster diversity and inclusion in the semiconductor industry.

Today, 4% of the semiconductor workforce is black and 13% is Hispanic, compared to 10% and 17% respectively in all manufacturing field.

“As this transformational legislation advances through Congress, I am pleased to see that it includes our provision to ensure that jobs created from this bill are distributed equitably and taxpayer funding will also support minority-, veteran-, and women-owned businesses,”Sen. Padilla said in the news release. “This bill is a good step in ensuring America keeps its competitive edge and reducing our dependence on foreign governments.

“As a mechanical engineer, I understand firsthand how important these investments are to increase our STEM workforce and reassert American leadership at the forefront of scientific innovation and technology,” he said. (“STEM” stands for science, technology, engineering and math.)

“This provision will help lower costs, create Georgia jobs, and ensure all Georgia workers are ready to compete in a changing global economy. I’ve been proud to play an integral role in getting this provision over the finish line,” the Rev. Warnock said in the news release.

The CHIPS for America Act would require the Department of Commerce to ensure that the recipients of semiconductor manufacturing incentives meet their commitments to increase the participation of economically disadvantaged individuals in the semiconductor workforce. Such personnel would also serve as a resource to support the participation of minority-owned businesses, veteran-owned businesses and women-owned businesses in CHIPS-funded projects.

A 2019 Global Semiconductor Alliance/Accenture survey also found less than 25% semiconductor employees are female and fewer than 1% of leadership roles at most companies are held by women.

Earlier this year, Sens. Padilla and Warnock pushed Senate leadership to support provisions that would require semiconductor companies receiving federal assistance for research, design, and manufacturing to invest in a more diverse workforce and improve procurement from minority-, veteran-, and women-owned businesses.

The bill authorizes the largest five-year investment in public research and development in the nation’s history for the National Science Foundation, Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology and Department of Energy, according to Sen. Padilla’s office.

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