Wolfspeed and Chatham County schools: A winning partnership for students

By Gene Galin

Pittsboro, NC – In an effort to empower students and foster educational pathways, Chatham County schools have forged a partnership with Wolfspeed, a leading semiconductor manufacturing company. The collaboration aims to provide students with valuable career opportunities and equip them with the necessary skills for success in the fast-evolving field of technology.

View the video of Delisha Hinton’s presentation at the Chatham County School Board meeting.

Delisha Hinton, a Wolfspeed K-12 Relationship Manager, recently shared insights into the collaboration during a presentation at a Chatham County school board meeting. She shed light on the company’s mission, the impact of silicon carbide, and the diverse career paths available for students.

Wolfspeed, formerly known as CREE, is a semiconductor manufacturing company with a rich history rooted in North Carolina, focuses on harnessing the power of silicon carbide to bring about positive change in the world. The company’s founders, who originated from NC State University, have been instrumental in driving advancements in the field of silicon carbide (SiC) technology. Wolfspeed harnesses the power of SiC to create semiconductor chips that offer unique advantages over traditional silicon chips.

Silicon carbide is a material with exceptional properties, particularly in terms of power density. Unlike traditional silicon-based chips, silicon carbide offers unique advantages, particularly in high-power applications such as electric vehicles and agricultural machinery. By leveraging this innovative material, Wolfspeed aims to contribute to a more sustainable and energy-efficient future.

To accommodate their expanding operations and support their ambitious goals, Wolfspeed is building a large materials facility in Siler City, Chatham County. This facility, named after John Palmer, one of the company’s founders, will cover an area of over 450 acres and significantly increase Wolfspeed’s capacity. To put its size into perspective, the building alone is equivalent to about 39 football fields. The focus of this facility will be on crystal growth and slicing, key processes in the production of SiC wafers. These wafers will then be sent to another location for further processing.

Delisha Hinton has been actively engaged in discussions with Chatham County schools, working to develop comprehensive career paths and educational opportunities for students. Wolfspeed offers various entry points for individuals interested in pursuing a career in the semiconductor industry. High school graduates can start as operators, playing a key role in creating the essential ingredients that power future innovations. From there, they have the option to advance through apprenticeships or pursue an associate’s degree, facilitated through partnerships with Central Carolina Community College. Wolfspeed also provides educational assistance, including tuition reimbursement, for employees who wish to pursue a four-year engineering degree at institutions like NC State University, North Carolina A&T, and Elon University.

The collaboration between Wolfspeed and Chatham County schools creates a robust pipeline for talent development. Hinton has been visiting schools in the area, building connections, and exploring ways to engage students. The partnership encompasses various initiatives, including sponsorship of the North Carolina Science Festival, support for FIRST Robotics teams, involvement with the Boys and Girls Club, mentoring programs, class presentations, and participation in career fairs. These activities aim to expose students to the multitude of career opportunities available in the semiconductor industry and inspire their interest in pursuing related educational pathways.

Delisha Hinton, Wolfspeed Relationship Manager and Michelle Burton, Executive Director of Secondary Education and CTE. (photo by John Wood)

Furthermore, Wolfspeed is committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within the field of engineering. The company supports organizations such as the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and the Society of Women Engineers, each of which has a K-12 component. Through these partnerships, Wolfspeed seeks to create a more inclusive and diverse workforce by encouraging underrepresented groups to explore careers in engineering and technology.

The collaboration between Wolfspeed and Chatham County schools holds tremendous potential for the future of students in the region. It presents an excellent opportunity for students in Chatham County Schools to explore the exciting world of semiconductor technology and carve out promising career paths. It highlights the importance of STEM education and the relevance of industry collaboration in preparing students for the jobs of the future.

By exposing them to cutting-edge technology and providing diverse career paths, this partnership equips students with the skills and knowledge needed to excel in the semiconductor industry. It presents an opportunity for Chatham County to be at the forefront of technological innovation while simultaneously preparing its students for the challenges and opportunities of the future.

The collaboration between Wolfspeed and Chatham County schools represents an initiative that aims to bridge the gap between education and industry. By joining forces, they strive to create a thriving ecosystem that nurtures talent, fosters innovation, and paves a pathway to success for Chatham County students.