Published on
Jul 1, 2021

About the event

From May 11 - 13, 2021, Parallax Advanced Research’s Academic Partnership Engagement Experiment (APEX) program hosted the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)-sponsored 2021 Virtual Microelectronics Workforce Strategy Forum. The forum showcased opportunities and activities geared towards attracting, educating, and retaining a future workforce to support the United States’ objectives for microelectronics and related skills. Presenters at the event included representatives from academia, industry, and the government who promoted policies and activities that increase participation and the success of students from high school through college for careers in microelectronics and related disciplines.


The U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 highlights the “leaky faucet” impact on the STEM workforce. While the demand for a STEM trained and educated workforce in the United States is expected to increase in the future, the reality is that the STEM pipeline continues to lose students along the way.

Viewing this reality as a feeder system rather than a “leaky faucet”, changes the perspective from losing students to providing workforce needs at every skill and educational level. Using microelectronics as an example of a fast-growing STEM field, students who do not complete high school in the traditional sense can still find jobs as electronics technicians earning $30,000 to $50,000 per year. For High School graduates who are interested in STEM but cannot or choose not to enroll in college, a career as a Semiconductor Processing Technician can provide earnings of $40,000 to $80,000 per year. Students who choose to pursue a career and college simultaneously can find employment as MEMS Technicians through certificate programs and earning $50,000 to $80,000 per year. Finally, for those college bound students who choose to complete an associate degree and then enter the workforce are highly sought after as Digital Fabrication Specialists with earnings of $50,000 to $90,000 per year.

With all the emphasis on STEM careers now and in the future, it is important to remember that STEM related industries benefit from a workforce with all levels of skills and education.

The following are panel summaries with videos which premiered at the virtual forum:

Day 1

Welcoming Remarks

Dr. Dave Rude, Director of Education and Training at Parallax/APEX introduces Mr. Dennis Andersh, CEO and President of Parallax Advanced Research and Dr. Victoria Coleman, Chief Scientist at the Department of the Air Force. Mr. Andersh provides an overview of the status, needs and future of the microelectronics workforce in the U.S. and welcomes key speakers Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Colonel (Ret.) Joseph Zeis, Senior Advisor for Aerospace and Defense for the State of Ohio to discuss Ohio’s supporting microelectronics strategy.

Distinguished Speaker Remarks: Department of Air Force Priorities on Microelectronics

Ms. Kristen Baldwin, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Science Technology & Engineering, U.S. Air Force speaks about Air Force priorities for the future Microelectronics workforce.

Distinguished ME Leadership Panel

Dr. Dave Rude moderates a panel of experts in the field of microelectronics. Panelists include Dr. Yadu Zambre, Chief Microelectronics Technology Officer, AFRL; Dr. Matthew Casto, Division Chief, Aerospace Components & Subsystems Division, AFRL; Dr. Dave Williams, Prof. Materials Science & Engineering, Ohio State University; Mr. Jimmy Goodrich, Vice President Global Policy, Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) and Dr. Brian Rigling, Dean College of Engineering and Computer Science at Wright State University.

Day 2

APEX Welcome & STEM Plenary Session

Ms. Mary Margaret Evans, Executive Director APEX gives an overview of the APEX program, its key functional areas, and its scope as well as moderates a panel discussion on the importance of engagement between STEM education and microelectronics. Panelists include Chancellor Randy Gardner, Ohio Department of Higher Education; Dr. Cheryl Rice, Vice Chancellor of Workforce Development, Ohio Department of Higher Education; Dr. Marc Cahay, Department Head, College of Engineering & Applied Science, University of Cincinnati; and Dr. Waleed Khalil, Co-Director, Air Force Center of Excellence.

Future ME Employment and Industry Landscape

APEX Creativity & Innovation Director Dr. Edie Williams moderates this plenary session on the future of microelectronics employment and industry landscapes. Panelists include Colonel (Ret.) Joseph Zeis, Senior Advisor for Aerospace and Defense, State of Ohio; Lt. Col. Elaine Bryant, Executive Vice President, Aerospace & Defense at Dayton Development Coalition and Managing Director, JobsOhio; Dr. Thomas Kent, Division Manager, Cyber Trust &Assurance, Battelle Memorial Institute; Mr. Vijay Nithiananthan, Senior Director of Engineering & Technology at Silfex Inc.; and Dr. Vipul Patel, Senior Electronics Engineer at AFRL Sensors Directorate.

Panelists discuss their roles in the microelectronics industry and the critical need for a microelectronics workforce supporting the Air Force and Department of Defense. Panelists also discuss concrete steps to promote and build a microelectronics workforce at regional and national levels and the roles industry, academia and government can play in the success of such efforts.

Day 3

Keynote: DoD ME Roadmap

Ms. Nicole Petta, Principal Director for Microelectronics, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering speaks about creating a microelectronics roadmap for the Department of Defense and gives recommendations for industry participants who want to measure their progress vis-à-vis the Department of Defense’s microelectronics needs.

Plenary Session: ME Future Roadmap

Dr. Dave Rude introduces the session facilitator Dr. Gwen Lee Thomas, President and CEO, Quality Measures, LLC who is joined by Ms. Charmagne Paat, Evaluation & Research Associate at Quality Measures, LLC. The session focuses on collective efforts and resources provided by Microelectronics Workforce Strategy Forum presenters for creating and sustaining actionable plans for the microelectronics ecosystem. 

Closing Session: ME Workforce Strategy Forum

Mr. Dennis Andersh & Dr. Dave Rude provide key takeaways from various sessions and plans for continuing the development and sustainment of the microelectronics workforce to fill gaps for the Air Force and Department of Defense.

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