Prashanta Samanta, director of the instrumentation and control technologies program at Finger Lakes Community College, was the featured speaker at a recent Victor-Farmington Rotary Club dinner meeting.

The ICT program is designed to provide skilled workers for companies facing a shortage in workers who have the training and capabilities necessary to succeed in a high-tech environment.

In addition to his duties as director of the ICT program, Samanta teaches courses in introduction to emerging technologies, LabVIEW, Applied Physics 1 and 2, digital electronics, automated data acquisition and Automation Control 1 and 2. He is a graduate of Indian Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Maine. Samanta received the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in 1998.

The ICT program, based at the FLCC Victor campus, offers an Associate in Applied Science degree program and a certificate program. Samanta said that small and medium technical companies are facing a shortage of skilled workers who can function effectively in the high-tech ecosystem of today’s work environment. This has resulted in over 500,000 vacancies nationally in the high-tech employment field.

The FLCC degree program incorporates math and physics into electronics, design, process improvement, data acquisition and automation technology classes. He said that the coursework involves hands-on problem solving and case studies as well as written and verbal communication skills. Math, English and physics classes are customized for the high-tech career field.

In response to a question as to why FLCC initiated this program, Samanta said that the genesis for the program was in response to the problem that many small- and medium-sized companies were experiencing in hiring technically trained skilled workers from the local workforce.

As part of this program, many students participate in a co-op after completing their first two semesters. This opportunity allows them to be employed full-time as they complete their course work. The second-year courses are offered after 4 p.m., allowing students flexibility in balancing their work schedule. An indicator of the success of this program is the fact that 90 percent of graduates are employed in the high-tech field.

Samanta believes there must be educational opportunities that provide local companies the opportunity to hire a local workforce capable of functioning effectively in the high-tech field. He said that there is even a need for workers with technical skills in fields such as agriculture. As an example, many large dairy farms are now converting to the use of robotics in their milking systems.

In the Finger Lakes area, the need for a trained technical workforce has helped spur the co-op system part of the FLCC program. Several local high-tech companies have participated in this effort, including Construction Robotics, G.W. Lisk, Optimax Systems Inc. and Surmotech.