people are replaced annually by either normal attrition or additions for growth, the U.S. plasma processing industry needs at least 250 to 500 new professionals annually.
The skills and educational level required by these people will be varied, but the majority of these needs can be satisfied by training on the B.S. and M.S. levels. However, faculty must be educated first before they can prepare undergraduates for careers in plasma processing. Maintaining world leadership in plasma processing requires a healthy educational infrastructure that produces both B.S./M.S. and Ph.D. graduates with the skills required to quickly contribute to the industry.
If we do not prepare our faculty and students to meet the plasma processing needs of industry, the cost will be high. On-the-job training in high-technology industries requires an estimated 3 years before a new hire can be assigned full project responsibility. This time should be compared to the 6 to 9 months required for a well-trained, well-educated professional to master the same job. The cost to the national economy of on-the-job training in the plasma processing industry will be approximately $125 million to $250 million annually. Considering that this cost leverages a $1 billion to $2 billion plasma equipment industry, which in turn leverages a $17 billion to $38 billion microelectronics industry, the importance of adequately trained professionals cannot be overestimated.
These costs to the national economy should be compared to the costs of improving the educational infrastructure to provide proper education and training. Five hundred new professionals per year means that 10 universities must each produce 50 graduates per year to work in the plasma processing industry. Providing annual university grants of $500,000 each to 10 universities for sustaining and promoting research and education in plasma processing seems a small price to pay when compared to savings from on-the-job training and the ripple effect that a strengthened electronics industry will have on the economy at large.
The discussion in the remainder of this chapter focuses on educational needs for proper training of plasma processing professionals: the preparation researchers need to be able to contribute to the field; educational offerings for undergraduates, graduates, and professionals; and how the United States rates in the preparation of workers compared to Japan and the European Community.
In this discussion of key components of the curriculum for undergraduate scientists and engineers preparing to work in plasma processing, two major themes are emphasized. First, plasma processing is highly interdisciplinary. Undergraduate students must be encouraged to take courses from a variety of academic departments. Second, plasma processing is now a largely empirical science. To be successful in this field an undergraduate must obtain a working knowledge of the scientific method and proper laboratory training.
To obtain the broad background needed to contribute in a technical role in the plasma processing industry, courses in the following areas are essential:
Atomic and molecular physics,
Chemistry and chemical kinetics,
Plasma and glow discharge physics,
Condensed matter and materials science, and
Processing and manufacturing technology.