U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo says what is happening at Austin Community College District (ACC) is a game changer. The Secretary came to ACC on Monday, April 15, to meet with students and faculty and learn more about the programs ACC is designing to prepare students for promising careers in the growing semiconductor industry. 

“The work that is happening here is ahead of the game. We just came from (Samsung’s) new facility, and they told us that they’re going to build a workforce center right on the campus with you,” says Raimondo. “ACC can basically cover the spectrum of everything semiconductors need.”

This is the second time in just over a year that Secretary Raimondo has visited the college to tour ACC’s semiconductor spaces. During Monday’s visit, Raimondo met with several manufacturing students, two ACC Board members — Sean Hassan and Dr. Manny Gonzalez —  ACC Chancellor Dr. Russell-Lowery Hart, and the college’s Associate Dean of Manufacturing, Dr. Laura Marmolejo. 

“When you have people like the Secretary of Commerce or the Executive Director of Policy for Science and Technology come to our community to ask these questions, it confirms they know we’re here, the ones that are going to train the workers, and make all of this magic happen,” says Dr. Lowery-Hart. “They’re investing the resources in us because we’re the ones that are going to provide the workforce and lead our students to a family-sustaining wage.”

Raimondo was joined by Dr. Arati Prabhakar. Prabhakar serves as Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and is Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. She also is the President’s Chief Advisor for Science and Technology, a member of the President’s Cabinet, and co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors in Science and Technology. 

During her visit to ACC, Dr. Prabhakar toured the college’s Make It Center and NXP Semiconductors Advanced Manufacturing Lab. She also sat down with students to learn more about what sparked their interests in manufacturing.

“There’s the next generation building. The scale of expansion is extraordinary, especially the big ecosystem that Samsung is building. It gives all the students the ability to see across the whole set of different disciplines and also the kinds of roles that they can have. So I see a lot at ACC that I think these students are the experts in. You’re doing it. When I think about the progress we’re making in semiconductors, I’m going to think about people like you all right here in Texas, making it happen,” says Dr. Prabhakar.

The U.S. Department of Commerce is giving Samsung $6.4 billion to help build a massive new semiconductor chip plant as part of the CHIPS Act. Both Raimondo and Dr. Prabhakar stopped by ACC after spending the early afternoon in Taylor for the new Samsung expansion announcement at their Taylor and Austin locations.

“This is a huge win for the Central Texas community and our students. ACC has been positioned well for a really long time because of the quality of our faculty and the magic that our students bring to take advantage of these opportunities when they come,” says Sean Hassan, ACC Board of Trustees Vice Chair. “This opportunity lets ACC build on what we’re already doing. Something like this allows us to be catalysts and have an exponential impact on the community.”

“This is the start of a new ecosystem that I think will dramatically change what our region looks like over the next 20 years. We’re not just going to be the epicenter for Texas or for the country in semiconductor work, but for the world,” says Dr. Lowery-Hart. “To have dignitaries from the White House and the most prominent elected officials talk about Central Texas in those terms is exciting. We should all be thrilled that Austin Community College is in the middle of all that work.”

ACC remains committed to developing critical advanced manufacturing and semiconductor workforce training programs and continues to be at the forefront of discussions about community colleges’ role in the future semiconductor industry in Texas and across the nation. 

“The innovation that’s going to be able to come from the funding, we can’t even predict what’s going to happen. But I know we’re growing, and it’s not going to change,” says Lydia Chen, ACC manufacturing student. “It makes such a difference training here, touching and working with the equipment versus just in the classroom. On top of that, our instructors are all from the industry. So, the questions they can answer are specific, and we’re lucky to have such talent here.”

“We have been building relationships and working with our industry partners for a long time. It has been huge,” says Dr. Laura Marmolejo, ACC Associate Dean of Advanced Manufacturing. “We engage with them in more ways than we used to. Now, we have apprenticeships, rapid training, and customized training. We’ve grown with time, and our skill sets provide our industry partners with training that fills those gaps in the industry right now.”

Just last month, ACC announced a new partnership with the University of Texas-Austin and the Texas Institute for Electronics designed to make Central Texas a premier hub for comprehensive workforce development that will fuel the needs of America’s semiconductor industry. 

The joint program will serve as a one-stop shop for an industry needing skilled labor, creating seamless and coordinated education pathways between UT and ACC to address every skill set on the semiconductor workforce continuum, ranging from equipment technician to semiconductor engineer. As part of the partnership, several UT manufacturing students also participated in Monday’s conversation with Raimondo and Dr. Prabhakar.

“This opportunity gives the students a more relevant hands-on portion that they would benefit from. Semiconductors are a specific field, and it’s hard to get that hands-on opportunity in a traditional classroom,” says Dr. Marmolejo. “With our collaboration with UT we can create a center that would reach the full spectrum of training needs the companies would have.”

View photos from the visit in our Flickr album below.


ACC’s Advanced Manufacturing Program offers stackable credentials, including entry-level skills certificates, an associate degree to help students move up in their career, and a bachelor’s degree for more advanced opportunities.

For more information, visit austincc.edu/semiconductor.