National Center for Optics and Photonics Education
Principal Investigator (PI)
OP-TEC Expands Awareness of Photonics Career Pathways
Photonics systems technicians (PSTs) work in industries that use photonics devices to meet production or mission goals. PSTs develop, operate, and maintain photonics devices, and integrate them into larger systems where photonics is an enabling technology.
OP-TEC creates and distributes standards-based teaching materials, planning guides, and monographs on successful practices. Its professional development courses prepare hundreds of educators to teach photonics.
OP-TEC awards grants to colleges for summer camps, Saturday academies, and dedicated recruiters to inform students, teachers, and parents about photonics career opportunities. OP-TEC’s 30 college partners provide pathways to successful careers for high school students and adults with an emphasis on outreach to women, minorities, and veterans.
OP-TEC Fuels the Photonics Workforce With Well-Prepared Technicians
More than 20,000 photonics technicians work in US businesses, labs, government agencies, hospitals, defense industries, and educational institutions. These enterprises need 800 new photonics technicians each year. However, two-year colleges graduate fewer than 350 photonics majors annually. Photonics employers have responded by retraining incumbent workers or hiring unprepared applicants, or moving offshore.
To help meet the urgent workforce need and maintain US competitiveness, OP-TEC supports new two-year degree programs and strengthens existing ones by creating secondary-to-postsecondary “pipelines” to increase the number and diversity of photonics students.
OP-TEC is helping to establish regional photonics centers to broaden career opportunities for deserving students. OP-TEC’s partnership with the regional centers also provides more opportunities for students to use industrial-grade equipment, for faculty to access supplemental funding opportunities, and for colleges to recruit adjunct faculty from more industry partners.
OP-TEC is also leading a national initiative to broaden the knowledge and skills of employed technicians through online courses and capstone lab experiences at colleges near their work or homes.