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New bill aims to expand workforce training for one of Oregon’s largest industries

Oregon – Oregon is stepping up its efforts to strengthen the state’s semiconductor industry with a new legislative proposal aimed at enhancing workforce training. Just a year after implementing a significant financial boost through subsidies and tax breaks totaling over $500 million, the state legislature is now deliberating on an additional $30 million investment dedicated to training initiatives at public universities and community colleges.

A Growing Industry with a Bright Future

The semiconductor sector stands as one of Oregon’s key industries, with the state poised to expand its presence amidst a national drive to increase domestic production of computer chips. Following last year’s legislative grant, $240 million was distributed among 15 companies planning to scale up their operations within Oregon. This expansion is expected to generate more than 6,000 job opportunities in the coming years, underscoring the sector’s robust growth trajectory.

House Bill 4154 emerges as a critical component of this expansion, specifically designed to equip the workforce with the specialized skills required in the semiconductor field. Despite the industry’s advocates pushing for workforce training funds during the previous legislative session, the focus had primarily been on providing financial incentives. This year, however, the bill proposes a significant allocation of $14.9 million to be divided among six public universities and community colleges, with an additional sum directed towards a sustaining fund aimed at fostering essential industry skills.

Rep. Kim Wallan, R-Medford, highlighted the bill’s comprehensive approach during a committee hearing on February 6, stating, “This bill will help to fund the universities from community college on through the graduate school level.” This initiative marks a concerted effort to address the educational and training needs vital for sustaining and advancing Oregon’s semiconductor industry.

Despite facing a temporary setback in job numbers last year—a reversal from the employment surge during the COVID-19 pandemic—industry leaders remain optimistic. The dip in employment is seen as a short-term fluctuation, with a strong consensus on the importance of semiconductor workforce training as a longstanding priority.

With bipartisan support and 35 sponsors, HB 4154 stands a good chance of passing. However, it is up against numerous other bills vying for legislative attention and funding in this year’s condensed session. Legislators have hinted at the possibility of providing partial funding now, with plans to further address the issue in the 2025 session, demonstrating a commitment to the long-term growth and sustainability of Oregon’s semiconductor industry.

Marcella Quintana


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