MALTA — Many teenagers anxiously await their 18th birthday. It comes with a new level of freedom — the right to vote, legal adulthood. But for Nick Suits, an HFM PTECH student in the Advanced Manufacturing pathway, it meant he could begin the highly sought-after internship at GLOBALFOUNDRIES for which he had been selected months before.
So, as soon as he turned 18 in mid-June, Suits pressed forward with all the necessary paperwork to begin work as an intern there.
GLOBALFOUNDRIES, a semiconductor design, development, fabrication and innovation company, employs thousands at its Malta facility, known as Fab 8. The company has partnered with HFM PTECH since the program’s inception in 2014. Mentors from GLOBALFOUNDRIES regularly visit the school to talk to students about professional skills and have participated in panel discussions about the advanced manufacturing field.
Suits is the first HFM PTECH student to be hired for an internship at Fab 8. During the training period of about three weeks this summer, he worked full time Monday through Friday. Now that his fall classes at Fulton Montgomery Community College are underway, he averages about 16 hours a week.
Because he lives in Canajoharie, an hour drive from the Fab 8 facility in Malta, Suits is up by 3:30 a.m. on the days he works to ensure he can be ready to enter the clean room by the start of his 12-hour shift at 6 a.m. He said his parents have been very supportive of this opportunity, ensuring he has reliable transportation to the job.
The “clean room” refers to the physical partition and the environment within the factory that houses all of the process equipment (also referenced as “tools”) that interacts with the wafer during the manufacturing process. This, for the most part, includes the equipment (or tool) mainframes, the process chambers and the Automated Material Handling System.
Suits works in metrology (the team responsible for measuring different components of the manufacturing process, such as the thickness of the silicon wafers) repairing particular tools if they malfunction in the clean room. “It’s different every day,” he said, adding that his experience is varied because his unit works on about 150 different tools.
Every day, Suits must put on the required “bunny suit” to work in the clean room at Fab 8. “It’s hot,” he said of the protective clothing. “And it’s weird grabbing tools with the gloves we have to wear.”
Workers in the clean room wear “bunny suits” to keep any air and surface particles they may have from entering the clean room environment.
Beyond that, however, Suits said he has been getting increasingly comfortable as a Fab 8 staff member during the past couple of months. “Everyone’s nice and says hello in the hallway,” he said. “They ask if I want to watch what they are doing to learn new things.”
Suits works with a small team of seven maintenance technicians, including himself and his supervisor, Ed Fitzgerald.
“Nick is off to a great start in his semiconductor manufacturing career,” Fitzgerald said, adding that Suits has been well prepared for his start in maintaining advanced semiconductor manufacturing equipment. “He has assimilated very well into a shift team and absorbed formal and on-the-job training well.”
His internship is slated to continue for a full year, and Suits said he is hopeful the experience will lead to a full-time job with GLOBALFOUNDRIES. He’ll complete the HFM PTECH program in the summer of 2019 and leave with an associate degree in Electrical Technology from Fulton Montgomery Community College.
“Learning different modules at Fab 8 would be cool,” Suits said about expanding his knowledge within the company.
If hired after the internship, Suits is hoping to take advantage of a program at GLOBALFOUNDRIES that would help him obtain his bachelor’s degree. For now, he is looking to absorb everything he can from the experience.
“I want to spend as much time in the clean room as I can because I want to learn,” Suits said.