Ensuring a talented optics workforce through SPIE education and training partnerships
From courses on optomechanical design to optical architectures for AR/VR/MR headsets, SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, has a well-established and well-utilized catalogue of technical and engineering courses on offer during their conferences, via online platforms, and as in-house corporate options. With the objective of providing opportunities for professional growth, Excelitas wanted to build a learning platform that offered in-house training and development for its employees. When, in 2020, Excelitas reached out to SPIE for a specific set of online courses that could upskill their staff, a new partnership was born.
Starting in June of that year, all Excelitas employees had access to technical-development resources within the SPIE Digital Library, an online research collection providing access to foundational and cutting-edge publications for optics and photonics professionals. In addition, Excelitas purchased access to training in the form of SPIE courses for 60 employees across nine corporate sites in five countries, giving them access to 28 online courses from the SPIE technical course catalogue, covering design, manufacturing, and testing in the fields of optical engineering and systems. In this finely honed partnership effort, SPIE was able to offer the courses and training arcs that complemented the learning platform that Excelitas wanted to put in place: the relevant training and upskilling opportunities provided by SPIE directly impacted and enhanced the professional development and career-advancement trajectories of Excelitas staff.
“Following our highly successful partnership with SPIE to provide Excelitas employees with access to the SPIE Digital Library, which was hugely well received, we wanted to follow up with a series of targeted technical development programs for our employees,” said Excelitas Chief Technology Officer, Commercial Business, Robin Swain. “SPIE worked closely with us to create a learning path through our in-house Learning Management System, and we are delighted with the collaboration.”
“Constant learning is beneficial,” notes Jessica Kun, an Excelitas optical engineer who took the SPIE course, Mounting Optical Components. “It keeps you flexible — you remember to think of the things you were learning about, and you have new ideas that come readily to mind when approaching a project. The course on optical mounts was also really beneficial in terms of creating optical designs as well as saving time. In understanding what type of mount was required to hold the optics, I could work faster to design the system as opposed to sending the design to the mechanical team, getting their feedback, and then changing the design.”
Team-sharing as well as time-saving opportunities also proved to be a valuable course benefit for Development Engineer Moritz Winkler. After completing the Fastening Optical Elements with Adhesives course, he brought a new bonding technique he learned from the course to his colleagues. “Overall,” says Winkler, “I achieved a deeper understanding of the technical context, helping me to solve arising problems in a shorter amount of time.”
And for Mechanical Design Engineer Dafydd Roberts, Introduction to Optomechanical Design, has allowed him to do his work more effectively, by pointing out best-practice elements. “It has changed how I implement mechanical designs and the resulting performance of the optomechanical systems I have responsibility for," said Roberts. "It has helped me change over from designing for ‘heavy’ industries to the philosophies of a more specialist field. I would recommend this course to any new designer to help them get up to speed quicker and design smarter.”
“Curiosity drives our motivation to learn and is a trait I encourage on my team to cultivate new ideas and creative solutions,” notes Sola Kuk, Excelitas vice president of research and development in lighting and a supporting manager of this particular SPIE-Excelitas project. “To nurture this cycle of curiosity and learning — as well as encourage a motivated team poised to embrace a changing technical landscape — Excelitas has partnered with SPIE to further enhance our development opportunities. Course offerings are relevant and interesting, spurring conversation and engagement, as well as providing foundational skills in optics and photonics. Our employees have expressed appreciation for the opportunity to explore their interests and expand their professional development.”
The training outcomes for Excelitas align synergistically with a critical element of SPIE Education Services’ directive and agenda: to offer a breadth and depth of courses so that companies can leverage SPIE courses to support and enhance their employees’ professional development and advancement. Indeed, a key aspect of the overall organizational mission at SPIE is to partner with researchers, educators, and industry to advance light-based research and technologies. “An important component of our mission is to provide a path for continuous learning that is accessible and relevant at any point in one’s career,” says SPIE Education Services Manager Laura Sharik. “We provide a unique opportunity for the optics and photonics community to learn from experts who have years of hands-on, real-world experience, solving similar challenges to the ones others will face in their engineering careers.”