Lawmakers in Oregon have passed legislation to help support the state’s growing need for workers in the semiconductor industry.

House Bill 4154 establishes the Semiconductor Talent Sustaining Fund, a $10 million fund that would be used to support workforce training at public universities and community colleges.

semiconductor chip wafer up close
– Sebastian Moss

The Bill comes a year after legislators in the state allocated more than $500 million in subsidies and tax breaks to semiconductor organizations. To date, $240 million of that fund has been awarded to 15 companies planning to expand their operations in Oregon.

However, while HB 4154 passed with ease, a lot of the Bill’s original proposals have been stripped back, including the almost $15m fund that will be distributed between six educational institutions. That figure has now been lowered to $10m and moved to the legislature’s end-of-year spending bill.

Instead, the bill gives Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) authority over distributing the money allocated by the Semiconductor Talent Sustaining Fund to “provide education, training, and research to assist the semiconductor industry.” HB 4154 states that this should be done in a way that propels “industry innovation and productivity” and “provides careers to residents of [the] state” who hold relevant qualifications.

HB 4154 also calls for HECC to address some of the most pressing long-term needs of the semiconductor industry by advancing a more diverse workforce and increasing career opportunities for historically underrepresented groups.

In comments published by Oregon Public Broadcasting, Kyle Ritchey-Noll, director of education and workforce policy with the Oregon Business Council said: “These investments rely on our state’s commitment to have a skilled, diverse workforce to step into those jobs. This bill addresses the need to be very strategic, very focused.”

Commenting on the amendments, Ritchey-Noll said: “HB 4154 is different from our original concept… but we’ve got those short-term wins in these direct allocations to schools, we’ve got that longer-term opportunity through this fund and I think that’ll set us up to invest in semiconductor talent.”

Oregon is home to a number of tech companies, including Intel, which employs over 22,000 people across four campuses in Hillsboro. However, in early 2023, the company announced it was scrapping plans to build a $700 million research lab in the county dedicated to sustainable data center technology.

Despite that setback, Oregon employment officials estimate that approximately 6,000 new jobs in the tech sector will be created in the coming years, in addition to 1,000 new construction jobs that will be needed to support the expansion of tech companies in the region.