Members of the AmeriCOM team were among 24,000 participants in the recent 2024 Photonics West (PW) exhibition in San Francisco. The familiar “PW-buzz” of energy was ever-present, as was the sense of camaraderie characteristic of the optics, photonics, and imaging industry.

AmeriCOM hosted a panel discussion, Creating Ecosystems to Produce the Next Generation of Optics Technicians, moderated by Jenn Cable, president of Thorlabs and a member of the AmeriCOM Board of Directors. The panelists included Samrad Bukovcan, Moore Nanotechnology; Donn Silbermann, Optics Institute of Southern California and Board of Directors of Vital Link of Orange County; Bill Warger, Thorlabs Education Group; and Alexis Vogt, PhD, Endowed Chair & Professor of Optics at Monroe Community College and Executive Director of Workforce & Higher Education at AmeriCOM. Together, they represented academia, industry, and nonprofits, three sectors that are essential to establishing ecosystems and building the optics and photonics workforce. 

Top, left to right: Industry panel, Jenn Cable, Alexis Vogt, Samrad Bukovcan, Bill Warger, and Donn Silberman.
Bottom: Audience questions followed the panel presentation.

The panel discussion and the subsequent audience questions highlighted that investing resources into workforce development and training yields a return for companies. It was also made evident that collaboration across the industry is key, especially in terms of establishing industry-wide credentials and raising overall awareness about careers in optics.

On Wednesday morning, APOMA (American Precision Optics Manufacturing Association) held its general meeting which included a mix of industry updates and technology presentations. Alexis Vogt spoke about growing the industry’s apprenticeship programs and Rosalie Clemens, VP Workforce and Community Engagement, represented AmeriCOM’s workforce development effort through the lens of mentoring the upcoming generation of the optics industry. Attendees also enjoyed a preview of what’s in store at the APOMA Tech Workshop to be held in New Orleans, LA in October 2024.

AmeriCOM’s, Rosalie Clemens, presented on mentoring the upcoming generation of the optics industry.

As is true every year at Photonics West, interactions on the exhibit floor proved to be valuable. Conversations with people interested in building the optics and photonics workforce pipeline took place with groups from across the United States including California, Arizona, Alabama, Connecticut, New Jersey, and more. 

Among the many posts on social media and wrap-up articles about the conference, one reflection by Patricia Panchak, Editor in Chief of Laser Focus World (and a first-time attendee of PW) rang true:

The first, most immediate, impression was the optimism and resolve in the sessions and the comments of people I talked with. While technically not a business or technology trend, the sheer belief in our community’s collective ability to catalyze a new technological era is as critical to future success as anything. It matters that the optimism and resolve is palpable.

Congratulations and many thanks to the SPIE team who so ably orchestrates Photonics West, the key event that opens the new year for the industry. PW’s infusion of “optimism and resolve” is sure to propel us through the months and years ahead.