New ‘talent hub’ focuses on semiconductor, nanotech

By Kathryn Marchocki

About 20 nanotechnology companies currently have posted job openings on the National Talent Hub and another 30 companies are working to get their profiles into the state-of-the-art talent pipeline that focuses on the semiconductor and nanotech-related industries. There also are five active internships posted.

Additionally, an estimated 60 educational institutions have their programs listed in the talent hub, added Robert Weinman, director of workforce innovation at the National Institute for Technology and Innovation (NIIT), a Maryland-based non-profit.

Recently, NIIT and the Micro Nano Technology Education Center (MNT-EC) at Pasadena City College (California) entered into a new partnerships that will provide students of colleges affiliated with MNT-EC, which is an Advanced Technological Education center, free access to the National Talent Hub’s job portal.

Weinman guided educators through the features of the competency-based system during the “Jumpstart to the National Talent Hub” session he led with Michael Russo, president and CEO of NIIT.

“Everything is real time. Everything is dynamically linked. It enables us to change things iteratively,” Weinman explained during the 2022 Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Principal Investigators’ Conference held last week in Washington, D.C. The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) hosted the conference in partnership with and the support of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Informing educational needs

The National Talent Hub was created with the support of an ATE grant and is designed to provide real-time data to support employer, educational institution and talent alignment and engagement. It targets STEM-based industries critical to national security and global competitiveness with a focus on the semiconductor and nanotechnology sectors.

By automating the process of connecting community colleges and universities and their students to advanced manufacturers and tech-industry employers, the hub is intended to match industry jobs — and any evolving competencies involved — with education programs and outcomes in real time.

“We can inform existing curriculum. We can tell you if there are gaps so you are getting a true educational development pathway,” Weinman said. Those seeking jobs can see how well their skills match a particular job and where the gaps are.

“It focuses on giving us insight into national strategies to show how to optimize high-impact skill sets that would lead to higher performance and getting products out the doors,” he said.

Colleges, students and programs can set up free accounts on the hub, create profiles to align with target job profiles and live job openings.

The nuances of working with business and industry

During a conference session, experienced ATE center and project principal investigators discussed strategies to strengthen employer engagement in technical programs through the Business & Industry Leadership Team (BILT) model and multiple approaches used in the Working Partners grant.

Session leaders agreed that developing relationships with industry is key to the process. When reaching out to employers, the educators stress it is important to be very specific about what you are asking of them, to avoid asking for broad, time-consuming commitments, and to identify how industry can benefit from the relationship.

“You need to get your ask tailored, but don’t ask for too much first…It’s like your first date, you don’t want to scare them off,” said Ann Beheler, principal investigator of the National Convergence Technology Center at Collin College (Texas).

“One of our biggest challenges is how do you get industry to show up,” said Jared Ashcroft, principal investigator of MNT-EC.

“What I try to tell all our industry partners is all I need is 12 hours a year ‒ one hour a month.… Try to come up with a strategy to make sure the time you are with them is efficient,” he said, advising that educators need to respond to employers’ suggestions or else they may not return.

Tap alumni to help

Mary Slowinski, principal investigator of the Working Partners Research Project and Workshops at Bellevue College (Washington), said connecting with alumni can help strengthen employer relations and provide potential candidates to serve on advisory boards.

“Using alumni is one of the most important things,” she said.

Responding to a question about the loss of employer partners given industry turnover during the pandemic, Ashcroft told the project principal investigators, “If you are having trouble connecting with industry, find out what national center you are in. I promise you those national center principal investigators will have good industry contacts.”

This article originally appeared in CC Daily.

Kathryn Marchocki

is an award-winning journalist based in New England.