Different uniforms, same skills. What makes veterans a natural fit for semiconductor manufacturing?

People may not realize that their military skills can be transferred into the semiconductor industry. But what are these transferable skills? How do they fit into a cleanroom context?

Lauren Percy · 06 Jun 2019

According to the ManpowerGroup, “the US manufacturing sector is estimated to produce up to 3.5 million new jobs over the next decade.” However, a combination of skill shortages and 2.5 million senior manufacturing workers retiring by 2025 will leave up to 2 million jobs going unfilled. (ManpowerGroup, 2017).  What can be done to diminish the impact this has on the industry and the economy? Well…

Around 250,000 service members transition out of the U.S. military each year. This talent pool is considered one of the largest sources of skilled, renewable talent due to the rigorous and lasting training that military service members endure throughout their active duty. A high-pressure, dynamic environment in conjunction with the emphasis on leadership and teamwork values mean veterans are a natural fit for a semiconductor manufacturing environment. In fact, 81% of MOCs, AFSCs, and NECs closely align to civilian job responsibilities – and none more so than technician and maintenance specialties.

To summarise this topic, we’ve collated 7 reasons why veterans and military service members fit seamlessly into the semiconductor manufacturing industry:


1. Transferable skills

A lot of semiconductor jobs call for experience in engineering, maintenance, reading blueprints, and understanding schematics. This experience is also part and parcel of technically-focused active duty – all from aircraft repair to vehicle maintenance.

Additionally, many roles within technology manufacturing require critical skills beyond technical and mechanical. During military service, veterans learn how to perform risk analysis, follow detailed procedures, collect data, and think critically - making them excellent team members within a cleanroom context.

“People may not realize that their skills can be transferred into the semiconductor industry and help them much more than they know. I worked with other Retronix Semiconductor employees that had dynamic backgrounds that helped in their continued success. Some were veterans, some worked in engineering, some worked in aerospace, and the list goes on.” (Austin, 2019).


2. Respect for procedures

Within a process-driven manufacturing environment, every task has a standard operating procedure that requires a measured and methodical approach to successful completion.

Completion of tasks ‘by the numbers’ is a standard part of military life. The same way that process guides the safety and quality of cleanroom work, the regimented structure of military activity ensures the managed risk of hazardous situations and mission success.


3. Familiarity with safety protocols

Before you can even set foot in the cleanroom, you must undergo in-depth training that covers cleanroom etiquette, safety, and procedures. This training protects both workers and the tools, equipment, and components within the cleanroom.  Before you can even set foot into active duty, it’s boot camp for you! While the nature of military boot camp is more physically demanding; etiquette, safety, and protocol are at the core of all training.

“Comprehensive safety training is a regular part of the military experience, particularly when the service men and women work with heavy equipment, aircraft, ships, vehicles and machinery. When transitioning into a manufacturing environment, many veterans are already familiar with working within strict safety protocols.” (Mary Ann Pacelli,  2017).


4. Effective communication skills, leadership, and teamwork

Managing the expectations of semiconductor customers, managers, and team members requires a strong arsenal of communication, leadership, and teamwork skills. These characteristics also come into play when ensuring that production schedules continue without a hitch.

“It’s no coincidence that an Air Force squadron or Army battalion is sometimes referred to as a unit. The members of a military unit approach a task collectively, understanding that each has a responsibility that contributes to a successful outcome – similar to how manufacturing teams operate.” (Mary Ann Pacelli,  2017).

Our own Gage Underhill was looking for work after retiring from the United States Air Force and joined the Retronix Semiconductor team in Arizona.  Initially he was concerned about losing the comradery and sense of worth associated with being part of a unit but soon realized the parallels between cleanroom and military life. “These are things I thought I had lost when I made the transition from military to civilian life. The community at Retronix Semiconductor is the best I have ever experienced in a civilian workplace. The sense of friendship, family, and work-life balance is above and beyond what I ever could have imagined.” (Gage Underhill, 2018).


5. Ability to perform under pressure

A widely-adopted mantra of the marines; “improvise, adapt, and overcome”, contributes to agility of adaptability and resourcefulness required of active duty.  Enduring challenging and purposefully high-pressure training develops the discipline needed to thrive in action-critical situations.

“They are used to working in tough conditions, with tight schedules, long hours and often, limited resources. Tasks that may seem stressful to others will be treated with the same commitment as any other by a veteran.” (Ava Collins, 2015).

These traits are necessary to meet similar demands faced by manufacturing technicians, engineers, project managers, and specialists.


6. Technology and technical training

Military experience exposes individuals to state-of-the-art technology and technical training that serves well within the semiconductor industry.

Veterans and military service members are a natural fit for technology industry positions. Because of the advanced technical knowledge and skills gained from time in service, veterans are uniquely suited to a variety of careers that require mechanical aptitude and technical talent.


7. Pre-screened, high-quality candidates

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment & Training Service (DOL VETS), only 13% of military applicants are qualified to enlist – meaning that it’s more difficult to get accepted into military service than it is to enroll in college or university. Rigorous testing, background checks, and stringent standards screen out candidates who may be unfit for the structured and disciplined environments of the armed services. “An applicant may be disqualified for many reasons including not graduating high school, low enlistment test scores (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery ASVAB), not medically or physically qualified, too many dependents, disqualifying tattoos, history of criminal activity, or testing positive for disqualifying drugs.” (DOL VETS, 2018).

Before being hired to work in a semiconductor manufacturing cleanroom – many of the same screening procedures are performed to ensure a clean, safe, and productive production environment. Although you can get away with tattoos in the cleanroom!

Check out other ways veterans are a great fit for manufacturing:

Are you a veteran looking to transition into a new career? If you’re considering joining the thousands of vets in semiconductor manufacturing, get in touch with our recruitment team at careers@retronix.com. We’d love to chat with you.

Know a veteran looking to make a career change? Share this list!

People may not realize that their military skills can be transferred into the semiconductor industry. But what are these transferable skills? How do they fit into a cleanroom context?
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