A new jobs-training program is coming to Stonehill College courtesy of a $570,000 federal grant and an emerging technology called integrated photonics.
By using light, rather than electricity, to transmit and process information, proponents of the technology say it can speed up the transfer of data while using less energy, potentially revolutionizing the storage and transfer of digital information.
Cloud computing data centers, which used nearly 2% of all energy in the U.S. in 2014 according the Department of Energy, would see that power usage cut in half after shifting to integrated photonics technology.
A report published by BCC Research in 2017 says the global industry that’s developed around the technology is already worth more than $500 million, and is expected to grow to $1.4 billion by 2022.
But government officials and industry leaders alike say the market’s growth is limited by the current lack of skilled technicians in the field.
The federal grant awarded to Stonehill would ideally lessen the present skill gap.
Stonehill will use the $570,000 federal grant to launch a technician-training program.
“We envision an innovative work-learn certificate-training program that brings together industry, higher education, and government in a pioneering partnership,” said physics professor Guiru Gu. “Our program will provide real-world training that will have maximum community impact, contributing to a hub for integrated photonics in southeastern Massachusetts.”
“A program like this will definitely benefit traditional college students, who would earn both an academic degree and a technical certificate in integrated photonics, a big advantage when seeking employment after graduation,” she added.
The program, however, also holds promise for groups of students and workers outside the traditional university nexus.
“Embracing students at community colleges and vocational high schools will be part of the program’s outreach as will connecting with workers seeking retraining, veterans entering the private sector, and underrepresented populations,” said chemistry professor Cheryl Schnitzer.
Issued by the Office of Naval Research Manufacturing Engineering Education Program, the grant is part of a larger $1.8 million initiative involving the MIT-based American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics Academy, Stonehill, and Bridgewater State University to develop a specific training program for integrated photonics technicians.
Given the speed with which technological change occurs, the college’s integrated photonics team, including Gu, Schnitzer, and physics professor David Simon, is hoping to have the certificate program up and running within two years.
The goal is to enroll 15 students for the certificate’s first class in summer 2020.