The CHIPS and Science Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Biden in 2022, signaled an incredible step forward in America’s pivot toward its industrial policy roots. Through this technological manufacturing bill—much like the automotive manufacturing revolution of the early 1900s—the United States will demonstrate its technological competitiveness while protecting against geopolitical shocks such as supply chain failures. But unlike manufacturing growth in previous centuries, the growth resulting from implementation of the CHIPS Act will lead to the creation of jobs for a diverse pool of workers, including women. The Biden administration’s commitment to diversifying the manufacturing workforce is exemplified by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s requirement that companies applying for $150 million or more in CHIPS grants must submit plans to provide child care for their manufacturing and construction workers.

The CHIPS Act requirement that manufacturers receiving large grants must make plans to provide child care services for their workers is unprecedented. Not only is it a bold recognition that supportive services such as child care are critical to hiring, training, and retaining the workforce needed to rebuild America’s manufacturing infrastructure, but also it provides an opportunity to model child care plans that could work for other industrial projects. If manufacturing companies that receive CHIPS grants create child care plans that successfully prioritize affordability, inclusivity, quality, and reliability, these plans could become a model for building child care for the workers and communities of future manufacturing and construction projects more broadly.

For example, in addition to the CHIPS Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will also create millions of new jobs building infrastructure across the United States. These bills were advanced at the same time the Biden administration, members of Congress, and advocates were working to advance a policy through Build Back Better that would have guaranteed every family in the United States a range of child care options to meet their needs. This policy did not pass the Senate, so did not become law. While champions continue to work to pass a more comprehensive child care and early learning vision, intermediate steps are necessary both to ensure the success of other federal policies and leverage the billions of dollars going into communities for manufacturing to also build out needed care infrastructure.

While CHIPS is the only grant program to outline a specific child care requirement, the success of IIJA and IRA also will ultimately hinge on the willingness of manufacturing and construction companies to innovate new ways to support the development and retention of their workforces. Thus, the success of the CHIPS child care requirement has much riding on it in terms of providing workable models for manufacturers participating in other grant programs.

Success in finding a workable child care model is not assured, however, and so companies receiving CHIPS grants will need to work closely with state and local governments and community partners to draft plans that meet the needs of a variety of stakeholders. Two CHIPS-funded projects that The Century Foundation has been watching closely are Intel’s planned expansion in Oregon and Micron’s planned new plant in New York.

Intel has committed to expanding its semiconductor manufacturing operations in Hillsboro, Oregon. Intel was recently awarded $8.5 billion in CHIPS for America grants; and for projects where applicants are requesting over $150 million, they are required to provide child care for their workers and those who build their new fabrication plants. These requirements will likely also apply to Micron, which has announced plans to construct a new fabrication plant in Clay, New York and is also expected to receive a substantial CHIPS grant in upcoming weeks.

Each of these projects potentially could lead to a workable model for providing child care to the high-tech workforce, but it is important to get the details right. The rest of this commentary will review the significant challenge of providing child care services targeted at the semiconductor manufacturing workforce and then discuss the progress being made in working toward a model for each project—all with an eye toward identifying strategies to ensure the successful implementation of child care plans connected to CHIPS grants.

The Challenge of Expanding Child Care through Industrial Projects

The leaders of the semiconductor industry have big goals for expansion. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo has said the CHIPS Act will enable the United States to produce 20 percent of the world’s semiconductor chip supply by the end of the decade. Intel’s chief executive, Patrick Gelsinger, has expressed the even more ambitious goal to nearly triple the United States’ share of global chip production from 12 percent today to 30 percent by 2030. The United States would need to dramatically increase the number of workers qualified to work in semiconductor manufacturing to achieve these ambitious goals, but it is not currently on track to do so.

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) projects that the semiconductor manufacturing workforce will grow 33 percent over the next decade, from 345,000 jobs today to nearly 460,000 jobs by 2030. However, approximately 67,000 of these projected jobs (58 percent) will go unfilled if current certificate and degree completion rates are maintained, and this labor shortage is being worsened by high turnover rates within the industry. Semiconductor manufacturing companies should seek to recruit, train, and retain a diverse workforce—not only because this would align with federal good jobs principles but also because it is the only practical way to fill the significant number of manufacturing jobs being created. This will necessitate proactively recruiting workers who are currently underrepresented, including Black and Hispanic workers, women, and workers who have not attended college. One 2022 report found that increasing the percentage of women in manufacturing by 6 percent would increase total employment in the sector by 800,000 employees.

One of the most common reasons that workers are unable to access training and career opportunities is that they have children they must care for, and so establishing child care and other supportive services will be important for the long-term sustainability of the manufacturing workforce. However, child care shortages throughout the United States, including in regions where semiconductor fabrication plants are planned, will pose a challenge to companies seeking to meet the child care needs of the workforce and the requirements outlined in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Notice of Funding Opportunity and detailed in the CHIPS Workforce Development Planning Guide. Furthermore, even where child care is available, it is often prohibitively expensive for families. It will be critical for manufacturing companies to consider these challenges when developing their plans for providing child care. The Child Care for Every Family Network’s Toolkit for Implementing CHIPS & Science Act Investments suggests a list of four “north star” recommendations to help guide these plans.

Ideally, manufacturing companies seeking to establish child care services for their workers would partner with state and local governments and community-based organizations, as well as labor unions, to develop child care options that build on the existing child care infrastructure to provide services that meet families’ needs and ensure quality wages and working conditions for early educators. One of the best models for this is community benefit agreements (CBAs), which prioritize local community input and could integrate commitments on workforce and child care strategies, and create mechanisms to build transparency and accountability for firms and ongoing community oversight and advocacy over the life of the project. While the CHIPS Act does not specify these, other federal grants do. The U.S. Department of Energy’s clean energy project grants require applicants to submit Community Benefits Plans (CBPs) that include plans for negotiating a CBA.

In its most expansive form, the work of these partnerships could lead to new resources such as grants and other fiscal commitments from the federal, state, local, and private sectors to grow child care supply and availability. Such growth would include expanding community-based child care capacity; investing in home-based child care options such as family child care; providing nonstandard hours of care; supporting family, friend, and neighbor care; raising wages for the early education workforce; and ensuring a variety of mixed delivery options for the families working at the fabrication plants and in the surrounding communities.

On the other hand, poorly implemented child care plans could exacerbate inequities in the child care sector. Each fabrication plant will bring thousands of manufacturing and construction workers and their families to a new community, and this will increase demand for child care in those communities. Semiconductor manufacturing companies must work to build adequate child care supply rather than just have their workers enter the existing care infrastructure, or those workers and families not included in the CHIPS plan will experience tuition price increases and reduced child care availability.

Companies that choose simply to partner exclusively with corporate child care providers—in essence, contracting out for the child care services they think their workers will require—risk failing to meet families’ diverse needs. They could actually be undermining efforts to build a robust workforce by inadvertently skipping over a sector of the child care services that cater to nontraditional hours and multi-age child groups, such as family care providers, as well as crowding out the women- and minority-owned businesses and nonprofit organizations that provide the majority of child care today. In doing so, they may also provide an opening for private equity to use the child care sector to extract wealth at the expense of children’s safety and early educators’ wages.

Meeting the CHIPS requirement to provide child care means not only adequately resourcing the effort, but also ensuring that the programs being offered are safe and high-quality, that there are enough early educators willing to work at the wages being offered, and that tuition prices are affordable for families. Demonstrating how to meet these standards will make the CHIPS Act’s child care requirement replicable for other federal infrastructure grants in the future.

The Oregon Model: State Legislative Engagement

In Oregon, state legislators and child care advocates are working together to support Intel’s quest to expand its manufacturing base there, and to ensure good child care options. Intel’s expansion will add 2,000 semiconductor manufacturing jobs to Oregon, which already houses 15 percent of the country’s semiconductor workforce, and the Oregon Employment Department projects that semiconductor industry growth may bring as many as 6,000 jobs. Intel claims that for every dollar spent on child care, the company saves three dollars in “reduced absenteeism, turnover, and work disruption caused by child care problems.” As Adam Sorensen, the Global Work/Life Manager of Intel, writes, “Providing child care is one way to make Intel a great place to work for our employees while giving something back to our communities.”

In March, the Oregon state legislature passed HB 4098, a bill that expands child care capacity near semiconductor manufacturing sites and provides child care assistance to the construction workforce. While Intel did not facilitate the passage of the bill, this strategy to promote a legislative solution creates a public–private partnership to tackle child care access barriers from which the project’s workers will benefit, starting with construction workers. First, by utilizing the state’s provider payment and screening systems in Oregon’s CCDF funded child care assistance program, Oregon can set up child care assistance programs for the construction workforce that meet federal CHIPS guidance. Second, by utilizing an existing state child care capacity building program, HB 4098 is dedicating funding for expansion of child care capacity in areas of the state where CHIPS grantees are located.

Child care supply building for construction workers will be critical in Washington County, where Intel is planning to build a fabrication plant, because most local child care is provided by licensed centers during traditional hours (9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.) while many construction and manufacturing workers work second and third shifts. Some of the funds under HB 4098 could be used to help home-based family child care providers, who are much more likely to offer care to second and third shift workers, start businesses or expand their businesses to serve more children.

HB 4098 targets child care assistance for building trades apprentices and those who completed an apprenticeship within the past five years, as an approach to expand the pool of qualified construction workforce and help keep them in the field. Some of these apprentices may help build new CHIPS facilities in Oregon, and it is important to give them the tools and resources they need to complete their apprenticeship programs and stay in the workforce post-apprenticeship.

While the legislature appropriated initial start-up funding, the bill also created the Oregon CHIPS Fund that federal CHIPS grantees can contribute in order to meet their child care requirements for construction workers. The bill also establishes a workgroup to discuss ongoing financial contributions from CHIPS grantees, as well as consider expanding this model for the manufacturing workforce. As companies double their efforts to train semiconductor manufacturing workers in the United States, child care assistance will be key to ensuring apprentices are able to complete their training and workers can stay in the workforce.

Overall, Oregon’s model for increasing child care supply for manufacturing and construction workers and the communities in which they work offers several potential advantages. The bill creates buy-in, engagement, and a process for feedback from key stakeholders including elected officials, child care advocates, and CHIPS grantees. It combines state funds and contributions from CHIPS grantees’ to increase child care supply by investing in family child care programs. And it builds on existing infrastructure, which makes it easy for CHIPS grantees to provide child care and meet federal CHIPS grant requirements. One outstanding question is how Intel will interact with the legislation, given that they were not a part of the bill development or enactment.

The New York Model: A Multifaceted Approach

While Micron has not yet received a CHIPS grant, in hopes of doing so, the company has committed $100 billion to building a fabrication plant in Clay, New York. This substantial investment is projected to create 50,000 new jobs in Central New York, requiring an expansion of child care supply to accommodate the growth. In response, Micron has worked with some state and community leaders to devise a mixed delivery system to build child care supply and provide a variety of services for families, including child care subsidies and community-based and home-based options. This mixed delivery system shows promise as a means to meet families’ diverse child care needs, but it remains to be seen whether it will create a sufficient supply of safe, nurturing, and affordable child care programs.

In addition, Micron has joined the statewide Child Care Availability Task Force as a non-voting member. The Task Force aims to address the broader child care challenges in the state. While the ideal solution would be universal child care—something advocates at the state and national levels are working to achieve—New York’s CHIPS-related effort shows promise as a model within this more narrow framework, while the broader work to achieve universal child care continues.

When Governor Hochul and Micron announced last year that New York would host a new semiconductor manufacturing facility, they outlined several solutions for providing child care. Micron said it will offer child care subsidies for its U.S. workforce, offsetting the price of child care tuition for families. While we have not yet seen details of this plan, when paired with plans to build child care supply, as Micron has indicated that it will do, the overall approach can make child care more affordable for workers without driving up tuition prices for families in the community. Micron also announced this past August that it would fund the Early Childhood Career Pathways Program, a project of PEACE, Inc. and Child Care Solutions of CNY, that supports residents of Central New York in securing funding and training to start home-based child care programs. This has the potential to increase the supply of child care programs owned by women, including Black and Brown women. It also provides more options for parents who prefer home-based care to center-based care, an option that often offers more flexibility in terms of hours of operation and serving a mix of ages.

Micron has also made an initial investment of $500,000 in programmatic support to the YMCA of Central New York. Although the YMCA provides child care to many families in Central New York, the region faces child care deserts, especially in underserved areas. The goal is for Micron’s investment in the Y and other partners to help support expansion, scholarships, staffing, and additional programming, including the Y on the Fly vehicle to deliver programming to additional underserved neighborhoods.

Micron reportedly plans to offer on-site child care at its New York facility. Proponents of on-site child care argue that it can provide companies with a competitive advantage during recruitment, increase employee morale, and prevent absenteeism. However, families often want child care closer to home. In addition, on-site child care can require significant time, physical space, and funding to implement well and there are also health and safety concerns to consider: semiconductor manufacturing necessitates the use of many potentially hazardous chemicals. It is important to ensure that all child care programs, including those near manufacturing facilities, are safe and nurturing environments.

Finally, parents often need help to identify child care options. Child Care Resource and Referral agencies, for example, provide this service nationwide. Micron is reportedly aiming to connect parents looking for child care with providers. Together, Micron’s investments in onsite child care, child care subsidies, the YMCA, PEACE, Inc. and more have the potential to provide families with a broad range of child care options so they can choose the option that best fits their needs. Ongoing engagement with the community will help ensure that these approaches are implemented equitably and effectively. In addition, companies will be most successful if they are flexible to modify plans over time to meet their workforce needs and expand the communities’ capacity to provide great child care options.

Looking Ahead: Leveraging Industrial Investments Expands Child Care Options for All

The bottom line is that all children deserve the opportunity to be cared for in settings that allow them to thrive, and parents need the peace of mind that their children are safe and nurtured while they work, train, or search for jobs, or address other needs. The opportunity of industrial investments to expand child care options will help fill in the gaps and meet the immediate needs of a growing workforce as leaders, advocates, and activists continue to work to make guaranteed child care a reality for every family.

The authors would like to thank Raahi Reddy, Regan Gray, Elyse Shaw, Dede Hill, Andrea Paluso and Josh Royce for their valuable feedback.