Four colleges in Michigan, New Mexico and Puerto Rico will receive $15,000 grants from the National Center for Optics and Photonics Education (OP-TEC) to help entice high school students into associate’s degree programs in photonics. A recent OP-TEC study found that U.S. employers require 800 new photonics technicians each year, while two-year colleges are currently producing fewer than 300 graduates annually. Photonics employers are increasingly forced to hire unprepared technicians, or move their operations off shore, the organization said. OP-TEC is a consortium of two-year colleges, high schools, universities, national laboratories, industry partners and professional societies funded by the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program. In addition to the grant funding, each college will provide its own matching funds. High School students learn about operating a HeNe laser. Courtesy of Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Baker College established its Associate of Applied Science in Photonics and Laser Technology (AAS PLT) program in 2013, and will use its grant to hire a dedicated recruiter and develop a dual-credit photonics course offered in a high school semester format. Northwestern Michigan College will use the grant for its dedicated recruiter to visit local high schools and teach classes, as well as to provide scholarships to 21 high school students. Central New Mexico Community College will use the grant and its own matching funds to hire an outreach specialist to recruit for its Advanced Systems Technology program. The outreach specialist will visit high schools, participate in college and career fairs and meet with high school curriculum staff to promote dual-credit opportunities. The Puerto Rico Photonics Institute in San Juan will use its grant to hire a part-time marketing and communications consultant to develop and coordinate a comprehensive island-wide marketing program for its New Horizons Photonics Program. For more information, visit www.op-tec.org.