Let's move the needle

June 3, 2024
Strategic alliance helps address the growing long-term need for a stable of trained talent across the optics and photonics space.

In recent years, we have talked a lot about the constant need to keep adding talent to the pipeline for U.S. optics and photonics manufacturers. It continues to be an issue that without constant attention will undoubtedly hamper growth within a dynamic sector. And, unfortunately, meaningful changes in the talent pool do not change overnight. It requires years of effort building the infrastructure and drumming up interest in school-aged children and displaced workers alike.

This is not an issue only impacting the optics and photonics market. According to the U.S. Chamber and its America Works initiative, the nation has 8.5 million job openings, with only 6.5 million unemployed workers.

Fortunately, efforts from dedicated groups like the Rochester, NY-based workforce training consortium American Center for Optics Manufacturing (AmeriCOM) are making noticeable progress in moving the industry forward—and enabling optics firms to remain focused on growing their internal capabilities.

Specifically, AmeriCOM is looking to increase capacity for work-ready technicians in a rapidly advancing, in-demand industry, and to expand opportunities for its students, faculty, and regional employers in precision manufacturing. The group has an annual goal of turning out 800 trained optics technicians. The key to accomplishing this goal is to continue working closely with colleges, community colleges, and vocational training centers to offer optical technician training programs.

In fact, AmeriCOM’s outlook just improved. Shortly after taking the helm at AmeriCOM, the group’s president and CEO, Dave Shelton, announced a strategic partnership with Keene State College. With its new Kingsbury Center for Diamond Turning Excellence (funded by the Kingsbury Foundation), Keene State offers a curriculum in manufacturing engineering technologies and optics applications.

Keene State is the first four-year post-secondary institution to partner with AmeriCOM and the fifth overall. The other institutions include Sussex County Community College (Newtown, NJ), Monroe Community College (Rochester, NY; listen to our podcast interview above with Alexis Vogt, Professor of Optics), Valencia College (Orlando, FL), and Front Range Community College (Longmont, CO).

The partnerships AmeriCOM has with industry and educational institutes are great building blocks for a much brighter future. Of course, achieving the level of success necessary to fill the gap necessitates additional involvement from industry as well as continued efforts to expand the educational network nationwide.

About the Author

Peter Fretty | Market Leader/Group Editorial Director, Laser & Military

Peter Fretty began his role as the Market Leader, Laser & Military in June 2023; the group encompasses the Laser Focus World, Military & Aerospace Electronics, and Vision Systems Design brands. He also serves as Group Editorial Director, Laser & Military (effective spring 2023) and served as Editor in Chief of Laser Focus World since October 2021. Prior to that, he was Technology Editor for IndustryWeek for two years.

As a highly experienced journalist, he has regularly covered advances in manufacturing, information technology, and software. He has written thousands of feature articles, cover stories, and white papers for an assortment of trade journals, business publications, and consumer magazines.

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