The Pacific Northwest Photonics Technology Project
To address the needs of employers for highly skilled workers in the applications of photonics, Lake Washington Institute of Technology will partner with high-tech companies in the Pacific Northwest, the National Center for Optics and Photonics Education (OP-TEC), Fluke Corporation, the Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing (COE), and the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE) to produce associate degree photonics technicians for employment in the region. Photonics technology is the practical application of light, including lasers, and photonics plays a diverse role in regional economy, but labor market data and OP-TEC reports show a growing gap between industry needs and photonics technology graduates. This effort will create the only associate degree employer-validated, NSF-affiliated photonics program in Washington and the neighboring states of Oregon and Idaho. After building upon OP-TEC's highly-regarded curriculum and adapting it to regional needs and evaluating its impact, the college will disseminate the revised model and teaching strategies to other colleges in the Pacific Northwest using OP-TEC and SPIE networks as well as the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC).
With industry collaboration, the college will develop this two-course photonics technology certificate to be added to advanced manufacturing Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree programs. To support the goal of improving and diversifying the regional technical workforce, the project will develop a regionally-specific, application-based sequence culminating in a photonics certificate aligned with 21st Century Skill standards to meet specialty needs of employers in the Pacific Northwest. It will utilize multiple recruiting efforts, including social media, to attract students and increase enrollment of previously underrepresented populations in photonics and advanced manufacturing and optimize and accelerate learning environments and career pathways to high-wage, in-demand jobs for students. This project will increase enrollments in photonics and advanced manufacturing at the college by engaging both traditional and non-traditional students as it seeks to enroll veterans, females, and older learners and create a more diverse workforce. Recruitment efforts will implement promising practices published by the Institute for Women in Trades, Technology and Science (IWITTS) and will contribute to the body of knowledge about recruiting and retaining underrepresented populations in technical programs at two-year institutions.