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IUP Program Expands Electro-Optics into Westmoreland County

To meet growing workforce demand in the electro-optics industry, an Indiana University of Pennsylvania cooperative program is expanding its electro-optics offerings into Westmoreland County.

Through the 2+2+2 Integrated Workforce Leadership Program in Electro-Optics, courses in electro-optics will be offered at the Northern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center, in conjunction with IUP and Westmoreland County school districts, beginning fall 2008.

Electro-optics is an emerging industry that encompasses technologies such as lasers, night vision and fiber-optics communications. Currently, the field is experiencing a national workforce shortage that extends from technicians to engineers to research scientists, industry officials say.

According to the National Center for Optics and Photonics Education, research indicates that 1,800 new photonics technicians are needed each year, and U.S. two-year colleges are meeting only 10 percent of that demand.

“Current supply of qualified graduates of two-year postsecondary programs falls short of industry demand,” said Dan Hull, OP-TEC director.

Intended as a secondary-to-postsecondary pipeline for meeting workforce needs, the 2+2+2 Integrated Workforce Leadership Program offers multiple entrance and exit points that allow students to earn a certificate, an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in electro-optics.

As early as their junior year of high school, students can begin earning credits that can be articulated into one of IUP at Northpointe’s associate degrees in electro-optics.

“Students can earn up to one semester of college credits free while they are still in high school,” said Dr. Patricia D. Scott, dean of IUP at Northpointe.

“The cost of tuition and fees for one semester at IUP at Northpointe is $2,980, so this provides quite a savings for the student and his or her family.”

By completing the four electro-optics courses and an Advanced Placement course with the appropriate score in high school, a student can complete the associate degree in electro-optics in one-and-a-half years, as opposed to two years, Scott explained.

After completing an associate degree, students have the option of pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in applied physics/electro-optics track at IUP’s Indiana campus.

The 2+2+2 Workforce Development Program is part of a state initiative to increase the supply of qualified workers in various technological fields.

IUP, in conjunction with Lenape Tech and the Armstrong County school districts, started the program locally in 2005, after receiving a $200,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

With the success of the pilot program, which brought electro-optics courses to Lenape Tech, the DCED funded an expansion grant of $160,000 in 2006 to help promote the program and recruit students.

Last year, IUP received its third grant from DCED, this time for $80,000, to duplicate the program with Westmoreland County school districts and Northern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center.

For more information, visit the IUP at Northpointe website at www.iup.edu/northpointe or call (724) 294-3300 or (800) 889-0872.

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