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College provides solution to growing skills gaps in photonics as national training academy lights the way  

South Devon College is continuing to lead the way in the hi-tech world of photonics and is halfway through its innovative Photonic Integrated Circuit Packaging ACademy (PICPAC) project, in collaboration with photonics specialists Bay Photonics and Davies & Bell – the first FE College to partner on a winning Innovate UK bid, to provide a solution to the growing skills gaps in the UK. 

Photonics is the science of light. It uses photons – particles of light – rather than the electrons used in traditional electronics. Photonics is the invisible force powering our world – it’s in your smartphone, the internet, your car’s sensors, the supermarket barcode scanner, most importantly the fibre optic cables beneath our streets. It’s also integral to green and renewable energy sources, medical research and the aerospace and defence sectors. 

With this everyday implementation, the photonics market is seeing considerable growth, with a predicted value of £1.2 Trillion by 2030, so developing and maintaining a skilled workforce is essential, and South Devon College is in a dominant position to deliver the training and upskilling required.  

The pioneering PICPAC project creates and delivers bespoke courses on the aspects of photonic assembly, packaging and testing (APT) that have been neglected, transforming the College into a national centre for semiconductor photonic packaging training. 

The College’s Level 5 Photonics System short course is now in its successful third year, with students and delegates from across the UK attending.  

Nine new short courses are currently being developed, including ‘Introduction to Photonics’, ‘Introduction to Front End Wafer FAB Manufacturing Technology’ and ‘Introduction to Back End Packaging’, with other key skills courses launching in the near future. 

Since the start of the project in August last year, the College has developed new partnerships with specialist businesses including PandA Europe, Tribus-D, Micro Engineering Consultancy Ltd and Light Trace Photonics, to help develop and deliver the PICPAC courses. 

Dr Roger Hopper, Skills Development Coordinator at South Devon College, said:  

“We’re so pleased at the level of engagement and new partnerships that are being developed within the photonics community.” 

“By investing in education and training, the PICPAC project will ensure that these incredibly fabricated photonic chips are packaged accurately and correctly to operate in real-world applications, keeping the UK at the helm of this rapidly growing field.” 

Andy Longford from PandA Europe and Martin Richardson from Micro Engineering Consultancy Ltd have recently joined the College team of industry specific Associate Lecturers, bringing nearly 80 years of industry experience between them, and strengthening our bandwidth in development and delivery of the PICPAC courses.  

Reflecting on the opportunity to pass on his knowledge as an Associate Lecturer, Andy Longford, Managing Partner at PandA Europe, added:  

“I am really excited to be able to support the PICPAC project at South Devon College. Having spent the last 40 years promoting and helping develop semiconductor packaging with businesses here in the UK and overseas, it is pleasing to be contributing to the establishment of educational activities being specifically generated for Photonics Packaging by this project.  

“Advanced Packaging is now the number one need for the emerging semiconductor industry to enable capabilities such as High Speed Communications, Quantum Computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI). It is expected that PICPAC will provide suitable learning and training programmes to support and develop the necessary skills base for the industry.”  

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