Acting US Labor Secretary touts job creation in Oregon’s semiconductor industry during Hillsboro visit

By Kyra Buckley (OPB)
Feb. 24, 2024 1:37 a.m.

Secretary Julie Su met with Portland Community College students training for careers in the state’s growing semiconductor sector

PCC Quick Start student Sofya Chen (right) shows off a project she worked on to Oregon Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (center-left) and Acting U.S. Labor Secretary Julie Su (left).

PCC Quick Start student Sofya Chen (right) shows off a project she worked on to Oregon Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (center-left) and Acting U.S. Labor Secretary Julie Su (left).

Tiffany Camhi / OPB

Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su highlighted the Biden administration’s efforts to create jobs in computer chip development — one of Oregon’s biggest industries — while visiting Hillsboro Friday.


Secretary Su’s trip comes ahead of what will likely be a contentious reelection bid for President Joe Biden. Low unemployment and investment in America’s advanced manufacturing sector are expected to be major themes in Biden’s campaign. Su touted legislation supported by Biden, like the CHIPS Act, which is sending millions to semiconductor companies operating in Oregon.

Oregon leaders have been working to keep pace with semiconductor developments in other parts of the country, with industry leaders like Intel making recent expansions in other states in recent years. The competition, both inside the country and across the globe, as well as the promise of increased federal investment, led Oregon officials to impanel a semiconductor task force in 2022 to prioritize help for one of the state’s most important industries.

During a tour of a Portland Community College lab in Hillsboro where students train for jobs in semiconductor manufacturing, Su told reporters opportunities in the industry are expanding. But she said more must be done to attract people of color and women.


“We have to say that, this time, when we build prosperity, we’re not going to leave anybody behind,” Su said. “We have to say that we’re going to recruit from communities of color, we’re going to make sure that women are doing jobs in construction, in advanced manufacturing, in the semiconductor industry, and we have to show that there’s a pathway.”

Su met with a diverse group of PCC students taking part in an intensive 10-day program meant to jumpstart their careers in the semiconductor sector. The community college partners with companies like Intel for the program.

The country needs more programs like the one at PCC, Su said, especially since the Biden administration wants to encourage semiconductor manufacturers to stay in or come to the U.S.

“We need to figure out how we do all of this faster and at greater scale,” Su said. “Once the jobs are available, it’s too late to start the training programs.”

The semiconductor industry — which includes companies that research, develop, design and/or manufacture computer chips crucial to making our technology function — employs around 30,000 Oregonians. State economists estimate that number will swell by about 3,000 jobs over the next eight years.

A recent semiconductor workforce assessment commissioned by Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission puts forward multiple recommendations for increasing pathways into the industry. One main proposal is supporting programs connecting schools with companies, such as high school apprenticeships and industry-sponsored master’s degrees.

Meanwhile, semiconductor firms operating in Oregon remain candidates for even more of the $50 billion heading to U.S. companies as part of the federal CHIPS Act. Oregon lawmakers also approved sending $200 million to businesses like Intel and HP to help them expand or build new facilities in the state.