Filling the Void

Key Leaders of Polar Semiconductor

Strong relationships between Normandale and local companies have played a key role in the growth of the area’s semiconductor industry.

Normandale has a rich legacy of workforce development assistance in the Bloomington area. While the college has provided training and applied learning for numerous industries, its work with the semiconductor industry has proved particularly beneficial.

Bloomington now has the Midwest's greatest concentration of semiconductor companies and employment. Normandale has helped fuel that growth via training partnerships with Polar Semiconductor and other local companies. In 2011, the college and Polar Semiconductor received a Minnesota Job Skills Partnership (MJSP) grant focused on advanced training for the company's maintenance and equipment technicians.

“Polar has benefited tremendously from the partnership,” said Polar Semiconductor Engineering Manager Surya Iyer. “We get access to top quality instructors on-site. This enables higher participation rates, uniformity of instruction, and the flexibility to schedule classes at shift transition times, thereby lowering impact to production. The information that our employees have gained has been particularly useful.”

The Twin Cities has a robust semi-conductor industry

Addressing a pressing need

Normandale's Vacuum and Thin Film Technology program has helped to build the foundation for much of these efforts. The program was originally founded in 1996 after several Twin Cities’ semiconductor manufacturers—Seagate, Cypress Semiconductor, Honeywell, and VTC—approached the college with a pressing need for trained vacuum maintenance technicians.

Since then, the program has trained hundreds of individuals. It also helped build a long-term relationship between Normandale and Polar Semiconductor co-founder Larry Jodsaas (See related article here).

Thanks to the MJSP program and a 2006 National Science Foundation grant, Normandale implemented six technician-level instructional modules, developed a plasma technology teaching lab, and set up an in-house plasma process training system. Jodsaas’ generous financial donations also allowed the college to renovate and improve its science facilities, and Normandale christened the remodeled building as the Jodsaas Science Center. The Center now houses the Vacuum and Thin Film Technology program and lab.

“Polar has benefited tremendously from this partnership with Normandale.”

- Polar Semiconductor Engineering Manager Surya Iyer

“The current grant project has benefited the college because we have been able to update our curriculum for the degree and certificate programs as well as for our customized training methods,” said Normandale Program Director for Continuing Education Ann Anderson.

"We are now savvier about applied learning opportunities for technical jobs. We look forward to continuing our support of Polar and other regional companies that employ vacuum technology."