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SPIE Professional April 2013

New skill standard for precision-optics technicians

By Dan Hull and John Souders

The National Center for Optics and Photonics Education (OP-TEC) in the United States has released the second edition of the National Precision Optics Skill Standards for Technicians. The standard provides the community with an updated listing of what technicians working in the precision-optics industry should know and be able to do.

Technicians produce, test, and handle optical components used in lasers and sophisticated electro-optical systems for defense, homeland security, aerospace, biomedical equipment, remote sensing, alternate energy production, and nanotechnology.

Precision-optics technicians also integrate optical components into electro-optical systems and maintain electro-optical systems.

The skill standard, developed by OP-TEC in collaboration with precision-optics industry professionals and academic representatives, has received endorsements from the American Precision Optics Manufacturers Association (APOMA), Colorado Photonics Industry Association, New Mexico Optics Industry Association, and the Rochester and Florida Photonics Clusters.

Image courtesy of Sydor Optics.

“The U.S. needs more highly trained and skilled technicians than ever,” said SPIE Fellow Jay Kumler, president of APOMA.

The standard is not only a valuable resource for employers; it provides a means by which employers communicate to educators their requirements regarding the content of the courses and programs that will produce their future employees.

Precision optics is a critical U.S. industry from both an economic and security perspective, and precision optics technicians (POTs) are vital to the viability of this industry.

OP-TEC is diligently working to meet the workforce demands within the U.S. photonics industry for highly skilled technicians. In 2012, OP-TEC expanded its mission to include not just photonics technicians, but also POTs.

OP-TEC has designed, in collaboration with faculty from around the country, an associate degree program in precision optics that addresses the requirements of the standard, and it is currently developing courses to support this curriculum.

OP-TEC has recruited colleges to implement this POT degree and is projecting that in 2016 the first POT graduates will enter the workforce.

The second edition standard will provide educators and employer advisory committees a solid foundation for generating courses and programs that will enable U.S. two-year colleges (and their feeder high schools) to produce these globally competitive workers.

Find more information and download a copy of the standards

Optics and photonics training

logo for OP-TECOP-TEC, the National Center for Optics and Photonics Education, is a consortium of colleges and industry groups working to increase the supply of well-educated photonics technicians by building and strengthening the capacity and quality of photonics education in U.S. two-year colleges.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, OP-TEC empowers community and technical colleges to meet the urgent need for new technicians and the retraining of workers in optics and photonics.

SPIE is a partner and supporter of OP-TEC.

DOI: 10.1117/2.4201304.07

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