THE INTERSECTION OF BUSINESS AND PHOTONICS TECHNOLOGY
Laser and fiber optics technician
education for the next generation
Undoubtedly, the vast majority of technological innovation in the 21st century is fueled by the advancement of
lasers, optics, and fiber-optic communications, or—as we technical people
Spokane C. C.
SUNY Ulster C. C.
Technicians that can build, install,
maintain, and repair the multitude of
systems utilizing photonics technologies in the following sectors of the
economy are in short supply: industrial
manufacturing; healthcare; sensing,
monitoring, and control; communication information processing and
storage; semiconductor processing
and manufacturing; consumer and
entertainment systems; lighting and
displays; solar photovoltaics and alternative energy; defense, security, and
law enforcement, and many more that
are announced every day.
Wayne County C. C. District
Mississippi Delta C. C.
Bishop State C. C.
Houston C. C.
Tennessee College of Applied Tech
Passo Hernando State College
Hillsborough C. C.
Seminole Vocation Education Center
Sarasota County Technical Center
Lake Technical Center
Eastern Florida State College
Indian River State College
Wiregrass Georgia Technical College
Lanier Technical College
Tri-County Technical College
Cape Fear C. C.
Central Carolina C. C.
Wake Technical College
This map shows the colleges that have partnered with LASER-TEC and offer LFO
courses. Those designated with the yellow triangle are outside the southeast area.
offered multiple jobs before they even graduate.
The U.S. Laser and Fiber Optics
(LFO) industry currently employs
over 7 million professionals.1 In this
exponentially growing market, developing and sustaining the LFO technical pipeline in the U.S. is a task of
national importance. According to the
U.S. Department of Labor O*NET
project, 17,100 photonics/LFO technicians (1710 per year) will be needed
between 2014 and 2024.2 However, all
U.S. colleges with photonics/LFO programs produce collectively only 300
technicians annually3—the demand is
almost six times greater than the supply! It is evident that technicians with
specialized training in LFO are, and
will continue to be, in high demand.
LASER-TEC graduates are routinely
Because of the exponential advancement of LFO applications, the industry
demand for qualified LFO technicians has been growing faster than the increase
in highly skilled graduates from two-year colleges. The recovery of the U. S. economy and the return of retirement savings to pre-2008 levels has enabled many
professionals to finally start retiring.4 This further widened the gap in the supply and demand of the technical LFO workforce.
Since the inception of the LASER-TEC Center in September 2013, its primary mission has been to address this issue and develop a sustainable pipeline
of qualified LFO technicians to meet the industry demand across the southeast
region. During this period, LASER-TEC has hosted over 250 outreach events
and launched dozens of informational and promotional e-mail campaigns that
have reached thousands of Center stakeholders. Additionally, we have participated in nearly 100 state and national conferences, meetings, and symposiums.
Specifically, the Center has been able to accomplish the following:
• Increase the number of LFO students from 95 to 153, an increase of 61%;
• Increase the number of program graduates from 23 to 98—a growth of 426%
and 100% work placement or academic articulation with an average starting salary of $53,000; continued on page 62
CHRYS PANAYIOTOU is the director of LASER-TEC, Fort Pierce, FL; e-mail: cpanayio@
December 2016 64
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