SCHUMER, GILLIBRAND ANNOUNCE: MONROE COMMUNITY COLLEGE SECURES $550,000 TO MAKE COLLEGE A TOP PHOTONICS TRAINING CENTER; SCHOOL AIMS TO MEET GROWING DEMAND FOR SKILLED WORKERS IN UPSTATE NEW YORK
Monroe Community College (MCC), The Only Community College In The Nation Offering An Optics and Photonics Associates Degree, Needed Federal Funds To Expand Facilities, Meet Regional Need For Trained Workers
Over $500K from National Science Foundation (NSF) Is First Step Towards Making MCC the Northeast Regional Center for Optics and Photonics; Schumer, Gillibrand Urged Feds To Approve Funds That Would Support New Equipment, Curriculum & Recruitment
Schumer, Gillibrand: Critical Fed Funds Will Help Build on MCC’s Proven Success in Optics and Photonics
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Advanced Technology Foundation’s Education program has awarded $550,434 for Monroe Community College (MCC). The funding will allow MCC to expand its optics and photonics degree programs, purchase new equipment, as well as develop a new curriculum and expand student outreach. Optics and photonics involves the science and application of light and are key to many industries including manufacturing, telecommunications and medicine.
“MCC is a proven leader in optics and photonics training, and we have an opportunity here to build on that success by creating a top-notch training center that will prepare Upstate New Yorkers for good-paying, middle-class jobs in this burgeoning field,” said Senator Schumer. “This five hundred thousand will enable MCC to expand its optics and photonics degree programs, update its equipment, and put it on track to become the Northeast Regional Center for Optics & Photonics. This grant is the first step in creating a regional center that will ensure all of New York and the entire Northeast has the workforce it needs to attract, build and sustain a strong photonics industry.”
“This federal funding is great news for Monroe Community College and for the entire Rochester community," said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. "The Rochester area is already at the center of the American optics and photonics industries, and these funds will help secure MCC’s position as a leading training center for students who want good-paying jobs in these fields. I will continue to do everything I can to make sure our students are prepared to take on the good-paying jobs of the future.”
Schumer, Gillibrand explained that MCC is currently the only community college in the U.S. with an optics and photonics associate's degree program, and is looking to become a major training center for this burgeoning field. Schumer, Gillibrand said that MCC hopes to ultimately become the “Northeast Regional Center for Optics & Photonics,” and this federal funding will help start make that expansion possible.
Additionally this NSF grant is the first step in MCC reaching that goal of becoming a center for photonics training and, eventually, middle-class job growth in this growing industry. Schumer explained that there are currently over 120 optics, photonics and imaging companies that employ over 24,000 people across the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Central New York regions. Schumer, Gillibrand said this federal funding would help provide training for over 800 area high school and college students through the proposed OPT IN! program. Schumer said that OPT IN! would put Rochester area students in the best possible position to pursue higher education and compete in the job market. Not only would it allow high school students to earn college credits, Schumer argued that OPT IN! would make it easier for non-traditional students, such as veterans, to transfer from MCC to four-year universities and to complete critical student internships. The grant would also allow MCC to develop new and revised curriculum, and expand online education. Finally, Schumer explained that OPT IN! would broaden industry and community partnerships aimed at recruitment and education about optics and photonics as a career option.
Dr. Alexis Vogt, Endowed Chair & Associate Professor of Optics at Monroe Community College said, “We are very appreciative of the Senators’ support to help us win this grant. We are now on our way to making Monroe Community College the home of the Northeast Regional Center for Photonics & Optics. This grant to allow MCC to strengthen our region's optics and photonics workforce and provide students here with employment opportunities in regional high skill, high demand positions. Ultimately this funding gives us the foundation to begin creating a regional center that will ensure all of New York and the entire Northeast has the workforce it needs to attract, build and sustain a strong photonics industry.”
The photonics and optics industry is central to the New York State economy and the Rochester area in particular. According to the Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster (RRPC), these companies generate $3 billion in revenue per year, and support 1-in-14 households in Monroe County. In addition to the one-of-a-kind program at MCC, Rochester is home to the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics, and the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at Rochester Institute of Technology. Statewide, New York universities educate 60 percent of the nation’s optics Ph.Ds.
Schumer, Gillibrand has long championed optics and photonics in the Rochester area. Earlier this year, Schumer, Gillibrand announced that the NSF awarded a $2 million dollar grant to the University of Rochester’s photonics research program. These funds created new opportunities for AIM Photonics Center outreach in the Rochester community. The University of Rochester was able to create K-12 education materials to teach students about photonics and optics.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the National Science Foundation Director appears below:
Dear Director Cordova,
I am pleased to write in strong support of Monroe Community College (MCC) grant application to the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program to enable MCC to expand its optics and photonics education and training program so that MCC can train more students to fill available high skill, high demand positions at local and regional employers. Currently MCC is the only college in the nation that offers an associate degree program in optics, and yet, in the Rochester region there are now more job openings for these positions than there are graduated students ready to fill these openings. Thus, MCC's proposal, named the Optics & Photonics Technology INnovation-OPT IN!, will expand MCC's work by first expanding and enriching its curriculum to train students for today's cutting-edge photonics fields, and secondly by linking with secondary schools, universities, and employers to create a seamless pipeline for more students to seek a career in photonics.
Currently more than 120 optics, photonics, and imaging companies employ over 24,000 people across the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Central New York regions. With an anticipated 3.3% annual employment growth and a workforce that is approaching retirement, the need for skilled optics technicians is outpacing the number of graduates who are prepared to fill positions. Beyond the specific workforce needs of these existing companies, demand for skilled photonics worker will grow further with the establishment in 2015 of the Rochester, NY headquartered federal American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics).
To grow the optics and photonics workforce, the proposed OPT IN! program will impact 850 high school and college students including underrepresented, non-traditional students like our growing veteran student population to help them advance their careers. MCC would expand dual enrollment opportunities for high school students, 2+2 and transfer linkages to four-year universities, student internships, and faculty professional development. Furthermore the program would develop new and revised curriculum, including online curriculum, at MCC’s Optical Systems Technology program to meet current industry standards. And by broadening industry and community partnerships it will foster recruitment, retention, and outreach activities to promote the awareness of optics and photonics as career option.
Again, I am pleased to write in support of this win-win proposal that aims to meet both the needs of a student population seeking the skills needed to gain a career in a high tech industry and for the needs of existing photonics businesses seeking new employees to fill current and future job openings. I appreciate your consideration of this proposal.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator