Monday, January 5, 2009

Precision Optics Technicians: A Critical Need for Our Country

Precision Optics Technicians (POTs) create, test and handle optical (infrared, visible and ultraviolet) components that are used in lasers and sophisticated electro-optical systems for defense, homeland security, aerospace, biomedical equipment, digital displays, controlled thermonuclear fusion and nanotechnology. POT’s also integrate precision optical components into these electro-optical systems and maintain them.

There is a perceived shortage of POT’s that could require our country to outsource this work to foreign nations - a situation that would compromise our nation’s security and sacrifice a vital sector of future economic development.

Several factors have contributed to this shortage. Many experienced POT’s have retired, and more are expected to retire in the near future. The two community colleges that have offered education/training in precision optics have discontinued the programs due to faculty retirements and poor support. One of these colleges has committed to update and reinstate its POT program.

Under a supplemental grant from NSF, OP-TEC and the Photonics Industry Clusters are conducting studies and preparing to support the development of additional POT programs at community colleges.

  • In January, 2009, OP-TEC will complete the National Skill Standards for POT’s - the employer’s specifications for new technicians in precision optics (and the basis for a new curriculum design.)

  • OP-TEC is designing the new curriculum model for preparing POT’s.

  • The Rochester Photonics Cluster is preparing a design and an equipment list for college labs to train POT’s.

  • OP-TEC, through the University of North Texas, is conducting an employer needs assessment to determine the number of POT jobs that will need to be filled over the next five years.

  • OP-TEC will host a meeting in Waco TX, February 19, 2009, for regional teams of colleges and employers that have an interest in initiating education and training for POT’s.

Hopefully, several teams will be identified and committed to begin planning POT education/training programs. OP-TEC will then move forward to secure funding to support them through their start-up process. We will also search for support to equip the laboratories.

We will be building a network of employers and educators for POT education/training. Are you interested in participating? Please contact Christine Dossey at the OP-TEC office.


tmillen said...

As a faculty member who had completed OP-TEC's "Faculty Development" course last year for Fundamentals of Light & Lasers, Course 1, I can report that I am delighted with the support of OP-TEC's staff and their college partners!

I am working to build our photonics/laser program at my campus. We are adopting the OP-TEC materials for our college and this will be the first semester that we will be using the OP-TEC Course 1 textbook. OP-TEC has been very helpful with helping me develop my course locally.

I strongly recommend other faculty who wish to add photonics to their colleges & universities to consider taking the OP-TEC Faculty Development course!

Tom Millen, Assistant Professor
Electronics & Computer Technology
Ivy Tech Community College
200 Daniels Way
Bloomington, IN 47404
(812) 330-6055, Office: B110

Anonymous said...

I had a chance to go through the national skill standards for precision optics technicians which is available at OP-TEC webpage, and provided some comments based on my working experience in this field. As I know, there are demands in this area from EO companies that are specialized in military applications.


biomedical engineering said...

As I suggest that the skills and knowledge necessary for success in today’s precision optics jobs
require more education in science and technology (particularly in materials science, optical
phenomena, and the operation of optical instruments and interpretation of their
measurements). Also, the manufacture of most precision optics (particularly spherics and
aspherics) uses high‐precision, computer numerical controlled (CNC) machines. POTs are often
required to set up, operate, calibrate, and maintain this equipment. Clearly, the job
requirements for POTs have been raised, and significant changes are required in the education
and training of these technicians.