RRPC and MCC Host Optics Camp to Introduce High School Students to High-Demand Career Paths

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Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster, Monroe Community College, and optics industry volunteers collaborated to offer a summer camp to introduce inner city high school students to new job paths.

optics summer camp

We’ve had such strong support and success with the Summer Sizzler camp to date—now we’re working to scale it. Communities around the country are interested in following our model.

This past week, the Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster, Monroe Community College, Rochester area optics manufacturers and local high schools are collaborating to broaden inner-city high school students’ career opportunities and help fill high-demand new jobs.

This collaboration works with a population of students that many in the Rochester community have written off. Only 46% of Rochester city school students graduated on time this year, the lowest of any large city in the state. Eighty percent of city school students meet income requirements to qualify for free or reduced lunch programs. These are schools whose students need options, and this camp works to match them with businesses that need qualified workers.

The students will gain hands-on experience in optics, working in small teams on projects like building an LCD projector and creating 3D images. Students will then have the option to take a dual-credit course in the fall.

Inspiring interest at the high school level serves both local businesses and students. As local optics companies continue to expand and increase capabilities, they demand a higher skill set from their workforce. The business and academic community in Rochester are working together to address the gap.

The Summer Optics Sizzler, a four-day camp June 25 – 29, filled up quickly. The students work with volunteers like Joshua Cobb, senior optical systems engineer at Corning Corporation and adjunct assistant professor at MCC, Jim VanKowenberg of Optimax, manufacturer of glass optics, and Jennifer Kruschwitz, consultant and adjunct professor at University of Rochester and University of Arizona. They will present their work to optics industry experts from companies like http://www.bausch.com, AccuCoat, and PLS Launch Solutions. Dozens of other optics businesses like Thor Labs donated equipment and funds.

RRPC Executive Director and camp organizer Tom Battley says, “We’ve had such strong support and success with the Summer Sizzler camp to date—now we’re working to scale it. Communities around the country are interested in following our model. While designed specifically to address the needs of Rochester’s optics industry, our program can be applied to any technical industry requiring middle-skilled workers.”

About RRPC
The Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster (RRPC) is a not-for-profit organization founded to promote and enhance the New York State photonics, optics and imaging industry by fostering the cooperation of business, academia and government. Its members represent the top optics and imaging companies in the world. Its partnerships, alliances, and ongoing innovation bring international opportunities to Rochester.

About MCC’s Applied Technologies Center
As the largest community college in Upstate New York by annual enrollment, Monroe Community College is a primary educator of the local skilled workforce. MCC partners with school districts and four-year institutions, workforce development boards, industries, businesses and government to meet its mission and respond to the community’s needs for a trained workforce. Over 25 percent of all local high school graduates choose MCC to begin their college education, and about 90 percent of our graduates preparing for a career stay within the Greater Rochester area.

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Michele Gleber
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