Valencia College Unveils New Precision Optics Lab, Celebrates First Graduates

On Feb. 22, Valencia College, along with partner Lockheed Martin, dedicated the college’s new Precision Optics Lab, where the first class of 14 students also celebrated their graduation.

Valencia College launched Florida’s first optics technician program in October 2023. The 15-week training program is designed to meet the manufacturing sector’s growing need for precision optics and photonics technicians in Central Florida. The program trains students in optics fabrication, optical assembly, photonics, and fiber optics.

“Lockheed Martin has been one of Valencia’s strongest supporters since the college’s inception in 1967,” said Kathleen Plinske, president of Valencia College. “That partnership continues today, as Lockheed Martin continues to collaborate with Valencia College to develop and educate a skilled, talented local workforce – one that will pay dividends in this community for years to come.”

“Workforce development is very important for Central Florida. Valencia College and Lockheed Martin have collaborated for many years to develop programs such as the latest Optics Precision Technician accelerated skills training program,” said Joe Battista, vice president of Workforce, Career and Professional Education at Valencia College. “We thank all the partners involved and congratulate the first cohort of graduates.”

Lockheed Martin was instrumental to the development of the new workforce program, working closely with Valencia College to launch the program, guide the curriculum, and even sending employees to teach the classes.

“Lockheed Martin is proud to have built a strategic partnership with Valencia College over the last 50+ years,” said Pat Sunderlin, vice president of Operations at MFC, and Valencia College advisory board member. “Our investment in education and workforce development in the community has strengthened our relationship with Valencia and allowed us to greatly benefit from workforce-ready graduates.”

In addition to Lockheed Martin’s support, AmeriCOM, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, has provided Valencia College with $1.5 million for lab equipment.

“The success of these students is a shining example of what can happen when academic, industry, and governmental partners support each other to strengthen the optics manufacturing industry,” said Bob Bicksler, president and CEO of AmeriCOM. “They’ve become job-ready in four months, and have opportunities for dynamic careers in optics manufacturing that will help grow our entire Central Florida region.”

Valencia College also worked closely with its precision optics industry advisory board, including members of LightPath Technologies, Ocean Optics, Critical Frequency Design, Jenoptik,  Raytheon, and Chronos Photonics, to ensure that Valencia instructors are teaching the skills needed by Central Florida companies.

The program teaches students how to fabricate a lens from raw glass and polish it to a certain aperture needed to serve as a component in helicopters, autonomous vehicles, communication systems or medical devices.

Optics are also used in almost every step of semiconductor chip manufacturing. From the initial lithographic techniques, to pattern circuits, to the final metrology and cutting of the wafers, optical technologies are critical to meeting society’s growing need for computer chips.