After Corning’s Fairport facility reached out to Dr. Mark Vaughn, the lead for Corning's Office of STEM, with a request to develop an expansion of the successful Technician Pipeline Program (TPP) he started a decade ago, it only took a matter of days for a press release to be published announcing the new program in collaboration with Monroe Community College (MCC).
Human resource managers at the facility near Rochester had heard of Vaughn’s incredibly high success rate with the TPP in collaboration with Corning Community College (CCC). The program puts participants through two years of schooling and customized work experience with Corning as contractors before they become full-time technicians at the company upon successful completion of the program. The managers wondered if Vaughn could implement a similar program in Fairport in collaboration with MCC, with a focus on optical systems technology.
In late June, pipeline leaders held informational sessions in the Rochester area, Vaughn said.
The expanded program with MCC as the academic partner, which Vaughn described as “the same model, different people, and a different location,” will build on a decade of success with the TPP in partnership with CCC.
Ten years ago, Vaughn, who began his career at Corning as a research technician 30 years ago, implemented the first cycle of participants. During the program, students complete four semesters of full time study and work a few hours a week at a Corning location (working full time during semester breaks). In return, Corning pays tuition and fees, as well as a salary to each member of the cohort. After two years, upon successful completion of the program, participants receive their associates degrees and convert to full-time positions as technicians. In these roles, they support scientists by managing materials, coordinating lab resources and logistics, performing preliminary tests, and assisting with experiments at Corning locations.
“When I proposed this initiative 10 years ago, it was because I believed that we would be able to help increase the scientist-to-technician ratio while also impacting how our profile of entry-level technical talent looked by home growing, if you will, our own technical talent,” said Vaughn.
Since 2008, 37 TPP participants, including seven who graduated this spring, have become full-time technicians in research, development, and engineering at Corning. Each cycle, Vaughn sets the number of participants to match Corning’s needs. The program with MCC will begin with three students.
The challenge for the program with MCC: compete with the 95 percent completion rate the talent pipeline has achieved in its first decade. To be best positioned to continue this track record, the Fairport expansion will follow the same selection process and timeline as the original TPP, meaning the first cohort will be seated in the spring of 2019, when the next CCC-partnered cohort will also be seated.
“We are getting a huge return on our investment,” Vaughn said. “Historically, apprenticeship-type programs look at maybe a 60-to-70 percent completion rate. For us to be at 95 percent is just a huge testament to how it is that we are tackling the opportunity to support the needs of the technology community.”