Discover more from The Up and Up
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s on a mission to make semiconductor jobs trendy
1 year after the CHIPS and Science Act was signed, Raimondo is encouraging Gen Zers to pursue careers in the semiconductor industry, a new PAC to elect young candidates, and youth energy in Ohio...
It’s been one year since President Joe Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act, which will support U.S. semiconductor manufacturing – prompting job creation in an industry that hasn’t been top of mind for young Americans in decades. In turn, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo is encouraging Gen Zers to pursue careers in semiconductor manufacturing, which she told The Up and Up is, “a very cool industry.”
In a conversation at the end of last month, Raimondo emphasized the prevalence of semiconductors in our everyday lives as a sticking point for attracting early talent.
“Every single thing — your phone, every piece of equipment in a hospital or your car, every piece of military equipment — relies on semiconductors, and it would be fun to be part of that,” Raimondo said. “I think the biggest thing is telling yourself, ‘Hey, this is a huge new opportunity.’ There's jobs for software engineers, coders, technicians, designers, architects.”
Just days before our conversation, Raimondo joined Handshake — a platform that seeks to connect Gen Zers to career opportunities — for a fireside chat about opportunities in the semiconductor sector. As Axios reported after the event, Raimondo pitched attendees on the allure of high-paying semiconductor industry jobs resulting from the CHIPS and Science Act.
The Handshake event featured video appearances from students like Kacey Gavin, who’s 21 and going into her junior year at Washington State University, and Mason Moreck, who’s 17 and in high school, but takes classes at Lorain County Community College in Ohio. Gavin spent this summer interning with Micron, a leading semiconductor company, while Moreck worked for Rockwell Automation.
Raimondo’s Gen Z outreach comes at a time when, according to Handshake, there’s been an uptick in interest from students, especially women, in fields like energy and manufacturing.
“36% of those surveyed from this graduating class in May told us they are opening their job search to more industries, companies, and roles. This translated into a jump in application numbers from women in industries like energy and manufacturing, possibly due to the increased engagement with early talent — on Handshake, energy employers increased outreach to students by 86% over the past year,” said Randy Tarnowski, a senior researcher at Handshake.
Raimondo, who’s long advocated for increasing opportunities for women in the workforce, told The Up and Up it’s important “to get to women and girls younger so they can see themselves in these jobs.”
“Lots of time when women, girls… when they hear manufacturing they don’t think of themselves. I don’t know why that is. Same thing with construction. So we're trying to get the word out as much as possible, as young as possible. Encouraging companies to do the same. I know that a lot of these companies are thinking harder about childcare, for example, which is important if you want to attract women. We just have to continue to talk about it and help people change the way they think about these jobs.”
Recognizing that a large swath of young people don’t know much about the CHIPS and Science Act, I asked what the Biden Harris administration and the Commerce Department in particular could be doing to inform more young Americans about these new opportunities.
“We just have to get out there and interact with the generation,” said Raimondo, who’s traveled to schools like Austin Community College in Texas, Portland Community College in Oregon, and Normandale Community College in Minnesota to speak about new job creation.
Raimondo emphasized that the Commerce Department is working with the Education Department and said that in a perfect world, “Everyone in middle school would be thinking about, ‘What is a semiconductor fab? How could I get a job? What does that look like? Well, you know, literally how do I visualize it?’ Every community college would have a program around semiconductor technicians to get them trained.”
“I just think people need to see it, and envision themselves doing these jobs,” she said.
Asked what outreach should look like from their perspective, both Gavin and Moreck, two students from the Handshake fireside chat, said that the best way for the Commerce Department to connect with young people is by partnering with other trusted messengers, at their schools and in their own communities.
“Finding a way to connect with students’ success teams, advisors, professors, is the best way to connect with students in my opinion,” said Gavin.
Moreck advocated for “telling people at a younger age.”
“The more information that’s available, the more people will be able to make decisions earlier on in their lives,” he said, adding that the “financial freedom” that comes from careers in this industry was a sticking point for him and could be for others.
Meet ‘Leaders We Deserve’, a new PAC to support young candidates
Today, gun safety advocate David Hogg and Rep. Maxwell Frost’s 2022 campaign manager, Kevin Lata, launched a new PAC to support young progressive candidates running for Congress and state legislatures. With an emphasis on building a bench of young leaders who are on the forefront of movements for gun safety, climate action, and voting rights, the PAC aims to support 15-30 candidates under 30 for state legislature seats in swing states, and candidates under 35 for Congress, the new group told The Up and Up.
Leaders We Deserve hopes to announce its first round of endorsements this fall. The PAC is being advised by Democratic Reps. Maxwell Frost, Lauren Underwood, Jan Schakowsky, Eric Swalwell, Tennessee state Rep. Justin Jones, Illinois state Rep. Nabeela Syed, Florida state Rep. Anna Eskamani, Delaware state Sen. Sarah McBride, and director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics and author of FIGHT: How Gen Z is Channeling Their Fear & Passion to Save America, John Della Volpe.
A ‘Vote No’ victory on Issue 1 in Ohio
In a special election yesterday, Ohio voters rejected a GOP-backed attempt to change the ballot measure process, known as Issue 1, which would have made it harder to amend the Buckeye State’s constitution. Those in support of the push tried to raise the threshold currently required to pass a constitutional amendment from a simple majority to 60% of the vote. The August special election came just months before Ohioans are set to vote in November on an amendment that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution.
Garrison Bowling, the 28-year-old director of the Ohio Student Activist Alliance, a progressive but nonpartisan youth-oriented organization, told The Up and Up that recognizing the grassroots power of citizen-led ballot initiatives, young people — across party lines — were fired up about yesterday’s election.
The Ohio Student Activist Alliance connected with young people on and offline. The group was part of the “One person, One vote” coalition and and had volunteers canvass in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Middletown. Online, the group teamed up with Gen Z for Change to spread awareness about the election on Instagram and TikTok.
Enable 3rd party cookies or use another browser
With its youth outreach, Bowling said the Ohio Student Activist Alliance explained Issue 1 and “what was at stake” if the measure passed.
“We as voters have power if we want to legalize marijuana, legalize reproductive rights, that’s something we could do, but if Issue 1 goes through we would lose that right,” Bowling said organizers told young Ohioans. Given the upcoming ballot initiative on abortion rights, Bowling said, “that was the number one issue that a lot of young people were drawn to.”
“I would even go so far as to say that I think this issue may have changed a few people’s minds about voting for the Republican Party,” Bowling said. “Classic Republicans wanted to ensure people have their rights. To them Issue 1 went directly against their core beliefs.”
Bowling said the group’s organizers told Republicans that even if they were against abortion, the future of the grassroots ballot measure process could affect them, too.
“We would tell them, ‘Hey, if you want to outlaw abortion and you collect signatures for it, you could do that,’” he said, adding the same could be said for any conservative issue such as expanding gun laws. “That was the argument we used for younger Republican groups and it did seem to work in a lot of cases.”
How students are pushing back against restrictive voting laws
States like Florida, Idaho, and Ohio have passed new election laws that could impact young voters. My latest piece for Teen Vogue explores how, in response, from legal action to robust volunteer programs, and on-campus voting access education, young people across the country are signaling that they’ll do whatever it takes to ensure their votes are counted and voices are heard.