Ten colleges win $2.9M grant to train laser technicians

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Orlando, FL - Valencia College, in partnership with nine other colleges, has been awarded a $2.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish a regional laser and fiber optics (LFO) training center in Fort Pierce, FL, that will help meet the need for highly skilled regional laser and fiber optics technicians.

With this grant, Valencia will be part of an alliance between the participating colleges and more than 250 companies, which will work together to train more students in the Southeast United States to become LFO technicians.

The burgeoning LFO industry needs more than 1,500 technicians each year, but the nation's community colleges are currently producing only 350 graduates each year.

"The growing need for technicians in laser-fiber optics - both regionally and nationally - illustrates the importance of this project to the local area and to our students," said Dr. Sanford C. Shugart, Valencia College president.

The National Science Foundation grant is designed to help the US maintain its position as the leader in LFO. Corning, which created the first optic fiber, is a partner in establishing the regional training center.

Indian River State College (IRSC) will take the lead in establishing a regional LRO technology center, which is designed to serve six states: Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

The Lasers and Fiber Optics Regional Center at IRSC's main campus in Fort Pierce, FL, will coordinate research and training for the 10 participating colleges. The colleges have agreed to participate in a regional training program and create specializations for their LFO technician training programs. The NSF grant will help the colleges set up specialized labs, train faculty members, and recruit students.

In addition to Valencia and IRSC, the other principal partners in the initiative are: the Florida Photonics Cluster, Central Carolina Community College of North Carolina, Tri-County Tech College of South Carolina and the Georgia Tech Research Institute.

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(Image via Shutterstock)



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