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Micron investment hinged on community college

Last fall, chip manufacturer Micron selected Onondaga County to build a new $100B chip fabrication facility. When complete in 2025, the facility will house the nation’s largest clean room – 2.4M square feet. One of the deciding factors for Micron was Onondaga Community College. According to Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra, “We chose this location for many reasons, but most importantly — Central New York offers a rich pool of diverse talent, including communities that traditionally have been underrepresented in technology jobs.”

The facility will create 9,000 jobs directly and another 41,000 indirectly. OCC hasn’t wasted any time. It’s already created or modified nearly a dozen two-year degree programs (and just one certificate program) to train the workers Micron will need.

Can you imagine this kind of investment in Washtenaw County?

I can’t either.

I don’t think WCC has the capacity (anymore) to train 10,000 workers for an economic opportunity the size of the Micron deal. It certainly doesn’t have the associate degree programs available. For some reason, the WCC administration has gone all-in on non-degree certificate programs. Micron’s needs show clearly that it takes more than a few certificate programs to create a readily available technology to support a $100B investment.

Washtenaw Community College has sold this community short by systematically dismantling associate degree programs in favor of non-degree certificates. That’s not the level of education and preparedness that will attract large-scale investments by employers. And that’s why Washtenaw County will not be the beneficiary of game-changing economic investments anytime soon.

Washtenaw Community College will need to deliver more than a hotel

Not only does Washtenaw County not have the available workforce, it does not currently have the capacity to deliver a workforce on the scale of a Micron investment. And instead of doing something about that, the WCC Administration’s grand Master Plan is to waste limited campus real estate on building a hotel. That is literally the “best idea” the Administration could generate.

There has been little effort to create new academic programs. There’s no vision for training a future workforce. There is little to attract investment to the area.

But if something does turn up, WCC will have a hotel.

Washtenaw County needs the infrastructure to train a technology-ready workforce. That would create jobs and further investment in the area. That’s what WCC is supposed to be doing. Instead, we have a Board of Trustees that’s off somewhere daydreaming about what retail businesses could occupy the parking lots while capacity to train and retain a viable workforce dwindles.

Photo Credit: UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, via Flickr