March 11, 2013
In the chips on payday?
By: Larry Rulison
Source: Times Union
The Capital Region's growing high-tech sector isn't handing out golden tickets like Willy Wonka.
nearly 800 people show up at a job fair at the University at Albany's
College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, it's easy to believe that
high-paying, meaningful jobs await them inside — an adult version of a
lifetime supply of chocolate.
But without an advanced degree or
previous experience, you won't be getting a high-tech job that pays
$100,000 or more overnight.
If you are hard-working and ambitious,
willing to go back to school — or in some cases take a pay cut —
starting salaries in the tech sector are typically higher than those for
similar jobs at more traditional companies.
companies in the high-tech sector enjoy high profit margins and face
fierce competition from rivals for employees.
But these higher
wages and better benefits aren't just given to anyone willing with a
resume. You have to earn every penny, experts say, and be willing to
"It's not for everybody," said Phil White, dean of the
School of Engineering and Industrial Technologies at Hudson Valley
Community College, which runs a two-year semiconductor manufacturing
program. "Not everybody enjoys that environment. It's a career."
— who says tech firms keep salary information closely guarded because
of the competition for workers — says graduates of Hudson Valley's
program might expect to earn a starting salary between $40,000 and
$45,000 as a clean room technician, whereas salaries at a more
traditional manufacturer could be as low as $30,000.
White notes, graduates of Hudson Valley's semiconductor program might
expect salaries similar to the school's own entry-level faculty that
have had six years of schooling, including a master's degree.
White cautions not everyone has what it takes to get through the
program, which loses about half its roughly 45 students in the second
year, when it's heavy on math, physics, chemistry and lab work.
"It's a very rigorous program," White said. "So much is up to you."
course, engineers and managers with industry experience are well-paid
in the local high-tech field, especially the semiconductor industry,
which makes computer chips.
GlobalFoundries, which employs 2,000
people at its Fab 8 computer chip factory in Malta and could add another
4,500 jobs by 2020 as it expands, says engineers earn starting pay
around $95,000, while top managers get $140,000 or more.
the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering,
which GlobalFoundries and others use to do cutting-edge research,
senior engineers get paid between $80,000 and $120,000, while a top
scientist or researcher can pull in more than $200,000 a year.
at both locations, which are about a 30-minute drive from one another
on the Northway, starting pay for those without an advanced degree or
even a four-year degree is between $30,000 and $60,000, depending on
previous experience and training.
GlobalFoundries spokesman Travis
Bullard said Fab 8 has openings in its facilities department for
electricians, pipe fitters and other laborers.
"Although most of
our positions require at least an associate's degree, a lot of people
don't realize that many of our jobs do not require an advanced degree,"
Carla Delgado is a perfect example of someone who
got a job in the local semiconductor industry without any experience.
Delgado has worked at the NanoCollege for three-and-a-half years
cleaning the clean rooms in which the school and its tenants such as IBM
and others do high-end computer chip research.
In her native
Puerto Rico, Delgado worked in the court system, but when she moved to
Florida a while back she cleaned hotel rooms because her English wasn't
so great. After relocating to Albany four years ago, she worked at Hotel
Indigo in Colonie before getting a job at the NanoCollege.
Delgado, 31, is helping to get the new NanoFab X clean room ready. The
building will be home to the new $4.8 billion Global 450 Consortium
working on creating chip factories of the future.
Delgado says she earns more than she ever did cleaning hotel rooms — even when she was lucky enough to get tips.
"It's awesome, absolutely, it's very good," Delgado said. "It's totally different here."
native Rebecca LaForest, 28, actually took a pay cut when she left her
job as a middle-school math teacher in Yonkers to take a workstation
operator job at the NanoCollege last fall. But she's taking graduate
courses at the school, and eventually hopes to work in solar energy
LaForest says she already interviewed for other job
opportunities at a recent job fair at the NanoCollege, something she
says is encouraged. "The opportunities are already available to move
up," she said. "My salary is lower, but I don't expect it to stay
NanoCollege spokesman Steve Janack says that is a hallmark of the semiconductor industry.
industry is very keen on bringing people in, training them and giving
them the opportunity to advance in their careers," Janack said. "We're
always looking to do that."