Opinion: This federally-funded job training program gave me a fresh start

Credit: Getty Images/sinology

By Tarji Borders

March 21, 2024

“The CHIPS and Science Act is changing so many lives and having such a massive impact on the economy because its benefits aren’t leaving any communities out,” Phoenix resident Tarji Borders writes in an op-ed.

One day I was sifting through my email’s spam folder when a subject line caught my eye. The email was for “women who want to change their lives in a new field.” 

I had recently been applying to jobs and struggling to find the right opportunity for my background, so I decided to open the email, which was from Fresh Start Women’s Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing resources to help Arizona women become self-sufficient and thrive. 

Fresh Start partnered with Intel and local community colleges to offer the Semiconductor Technician Quick Start program, a unique training opportunity providing Arizona women a direct pipeline into the growing semiconductor industry here in our state. The Quick Start program is supported by federal funding from the CHIPS and Science Act. Because of all of the recent coverage and chatter about semiconductors in Arizona, the opportunity piqued my interest. 

I reached out to Fresh Start, interviewed for the program, and enrolled soon after.   

The Quick Start program is exemplary of the good that comes out of investing in people, especially women of color. Historically, women of color have been left out of these investments. The CHIPS and Science Act is changing so many lives and having such a massive impact on the economy because its benefits aren’t leaving any communities out. 

The Quick Start program is a crash course in all things semiconductor-related, with built-in professional advancement support from Intel. Classes were almost five hours a day, five days a week for two weeks. In those classes, we went through the basics of electronics, how electricity works, how tools are used, how fluids work, and all about mechanical processes. 

We had hands-on projects where we’d suit up and simulate a factory to apply our newfound skills in real time. It was like cramming a semester’s worth of work into two weeks, but our all-women cohort was up for the challenge. It was an intense two weeks that ultimately changed my life. 

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Before the program, I had never considered a career in the semiconductor industry because it wasn’t advertised or communicated to me as an option. Now, the Quick Start program has made me reconsider future opportunities. Intel helps support further education, so I’m now considering getting a Master’s degree in computer engineering.

The Quick Start program was an amazing experience that introduced me to incredible, strong, and driven women I never would have met otherwise. Out of the 11 women in my cohort, the majority of us got semiconductor jobs with Intel. 

The success of myself and the women that I studied with is a testament to what happens when you invest in women and provide us the resources to have a second chance. The women I learned with are all success stories that speak to the power of legislation like the CHIPS Act. 

Using these federal investments to invest in and expand opportunities for women of color is critical to keeping our economy running smoothly. A working economy needs involvement from all, and the CHIPS Act is helping increase these opportunities and pathways to economic growth and viability. 

As more federal investments come to Arizona to boost our economy and workforce, we must ensure these benefits reach people like me. The Quick Start opportunity gave me a renewed purpose in life. We must continue to use CHIPS Act funding to invest in our communities and support our workforce through programs like Quick Start for years to come.

Author

  • Tarji Borders

    Tarji lives in Phoenix, AZ and currently works at Intel. She is hoping to pursue a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering.

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