The Tech Talent You Need May Be in Your Back Yard | Executive Voices | Corning

When it comes to recruiting tech talent, innovators need to pursue every avenue. Corning’s Technician Pipeline Program is a success story for graduates and for the company.


Having the right technical talent is vital to innovation, which is why I (along with my colleagues on the Management Committee) devote a significant portion of my time to talent management. Corning, of course, has comprehensive recruitment campaigns in place to ensure we attract the best candidates in science and technology. We have strong in-house mentoring programs that pair junior scientists and engineers with senior fellows. We provide support to educational institutions for Ph.D. students. And we participate in community programs and advocate for STEM education to help ensure future generations of innovators. We’ve developed many world-class practices that have stood the test of time. But we believe in pursuing every avenue to attract, develop, and maintain the best people, so we are constantly exploring new strategies. Corning’s Technician Pipeline Program (TPP) is an example of a relatively new program that has become one of our most exciting success stories.


Developed in 2008 by Dr. Mark Vaughn, one of our community STEM leaders, in conjunction with Corning Community College, the program provides participants with tuition, fees, and stipends for two years of schooling in areas such as chemical and mechanical technology that are critical to Corning’s new product and process development activities. The students intern at Corning while pursuing their Associate of Applied Science degrees and, upon successful completion of the program, become full-time technicians at the company.


The program boasts a 95% successful completion rate, and the graduates are having a real impact on Corning’s innovation efforts. Through TPP, Corning has added 37 full-time technicians to its research, development, and engineering organization. Members of the TPP community have authored more than 50 white papers and been included on more than 30 patents or patent applications. The program has also helped us increase our diversity, which makes us stronger as a company and more effective as an innovator. More than half of the technicians we have added through the program are women or people of color.

The program’s success has prompted us to launch a new cohort in conjunction with Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York. Human Resources managers in Corning’s Advanced Optics business initiated the request. They heard about the results of the program in Corning, New York, and saw a great opportunity to help meet their need for specialized talent in optical systems technology. When Dr. Vaughn approached Dr. Alexis Vogt, endowed chair and associate professor of optics at Monroe Community College, she enthusiastically signed on.


No question, community colleges are playing an increasingly vital role in our country’s educational system. For some students, community colleges are a gateway to a four-year institution. However, they also provide career paths for those interested in specific workforce training, those who are unable to afford the escalating cost of a university education, those who have responsibilities that make a four-year commitment unrealistic, or people who embark on a career change later in life. And I believe they are an under-tapped resource for companies like Corning who need a broad range of technical skills.


As a company focused on research, development, and engineering, Corning will always recruit a high number of scientists and engineers with advanced degrees. But it takes more than our Ph.D.s to produce Corning’s life-changing innovations; we need a continuum of talent and capabilities. Technicians are key enablers of our RD&E initiatives. They manage materials, develop experiments, capture data, and help ensure that our processes are repeatable, reproducible, and reliable. But their contributions go well beyond these activities. They are often our subject matter experts, they comprise a notable fraction of the institutional memory of our RD&E organization, and many continue their education and professional development to become senior scientists and engineers, as was the case with Dr. Vaughn himself.


Sometimes the best way to find talent is to create it. The TPP has helped ensure that we have people with the right skills in the right place at the right time -- while also creating potential innovation leaders for tomorrow. I’m proud of what TPP has achieved to date and excited about the potential to expand the program in other locations.