AmeriCOM’s national strategy of identifying and nurturing optics ecosystems is a multi-faceted process based on a simple premise: Filling the workforce gap where there is a need. By working closely with the team overseeing the Accelerated Skills Training (AST) program at Valencia College, the training program in Precision Optics, Photonics, and Fiber Optics was developed to fill a workforce gap, making central Florida home to the country’s newest optics ecosystem. As a Valencia College administrator explains, students who come could have optics jobs waiting for them once they complete the program.

The 15-week, Precision Optics, Photonics and Fiber Optics program will be taught in the Optics lab of the new Careers in Industry and Technology building.

The 15-week, accelerated skill training, optics certification program begins in September 2023 to meet the growing demand for precision optics and photonics technicians in Central Florida. According to Valencia College’s website, the program “will train students in optics fabrication (making lenses for industrial and military devices, equipment, and systems), optical assembly (assembling lenses and wiring systems), photonics (working with lasers for testing and communication), and fiber optics (assembling cable systems to connect various components).”

“Precision optics manufacturing jobs in our region are going unfilled, and no one was preparing workers to be successful in these jobs,” said Carolyn McMorran, Assistant Vice President, Professional Continuing Education at Valencia College. 

Valencia College has a long-standing relationship with Orlando’s advanced manufacturing companies, providing skilled technicians in a variety of industries. But when Lockheed Martin approached the college two years ago requesting an optics training program, school leaders recognized a larger opportunity.

Creating and launching an optics program didn’t happen overnight. First Valencia College met with Lockheed Martin to better understand its needs for precision optics fabrication technicians and optical assembly technicians. Then college administrators established a relationship with the Florida Photonics Cluster to learn industry needs of other optics manufacturers in the area. As Valencia developed the curriculum for its Optics Technician program, administrators met with industry leaders to ensure it included the skill development and training employers sought.

“We can step-in and train students for these fulfilling careers that are vital to our economy,”

Carolyn McMorran

“These relationships allowed us to customize our curriculum so it is relevant to employers in our area,” McMorran said. “We want our program graduates to be able to walk into any optics manufacturing company with the skills they need to be successful.”