Photonics technicians today are often referred to as "new-collar workers," but their work bears little resemblance to the industrial assembly-line manufacturing jobs of 60 years ago: today's career-focused jobs require technical sophistication and precision. They are also rewarding and well paid, with opportunities for advancement and professional development.
One major challenge to this rapidly burgeoning industry is getting the word out regarding technical career paths. With the optics, photonics, and imaging industry growing exponentially, and industry reports suggesting that one-fifth of experienced technicians are approaching retirement, the need for skilled optics and photonics technicians — and the need to attract capable students into relevant programs — is obvious. This is an area to which SPIE has been actively contributing in recent years and continues to do so.
The new Eichenholz-SPIE Photonics Technician Scholarship will provide direct support for students pursuing such careers. Established for students enrolled or planning to enroll in a laser, optics, or photonics technician associate or certificate program, each of the four annual $2,500 scholarships will be awarded to offset tuition and fees, textbooks, computers, or a computer upgrade, as well as other supplies and equipment needed for courses of instruction. Scholarship winners will also receive a one-year complimentary SPIE Student Membership.
All current scholarship applicants must be enrolled or planning to enroll in a laser, optics, or photonics technician associate or certificate program for the 2021-2022 school year. Application requirements also include technician-program information, a resume, and a personal essay.
This scholarship program is primarily funded by SPIE Fellow Jason Eichenholz. A serial entrepreneur and pioneer in laser and optics-enabled innovation, product development, and commercialization, Eichenholz understands first-hand the need for well-trained technicians in the optics and photonics industry. "Throughout my career I have recognized the need and importance of skilled technicians to translate research ideas into production," he says. "It gives me great pleasure to highlight their value by partnering with SPIE to help catalyze the careers of the next generation of photonic technicians."
SPIE is now accepting applications for next year's scholarships. Applications are due 26 April 2021.