Todd Barnum, president and COO of Linton Crystal Technologies, and Andy McVey, Principal of the Wayne Technical and Career Center of WFL-BOCES, recently took part in a panel discussion, “Building the Manufacturing Workforce,” as part of the Solar Energy Industry Association’s Solar+ Manufacturing Summit. The two discussed industry-education partnerships as a means to building and training the workforce needed to grow the U.S. solar industry.
The U.S. has established a goal of reaching 50 gigawatts (GW) of U.S. solar manufacturing by 2030. During a session led by Erika Symmonds, VP of Equity and Workforce Development for SEIA, Barnum shared his optimism about the workforce needed to meet that goal. “There’s some concern that the workforce we need isn’t here in the U.S. I disagree. While it looks like a complex process to go from ingot to wafer, Linton’s pullers require understanding of hydraulics, mechanics, high voltage electricity and software. Turning the ingot into a wafer uses a set of machining processes. There’s still the manufacturing knowledge and ability to do this in the U.S.,” said Barnum, adding he reached out to McVey at BOCES to see what he could do to help train and recruit WTCC’s students, who acquire relevant skills and career-ready knowledge.
Linton has for the past two years sponsored the Summer Advanced Manufacturing Experience (SAME) program at WTCC. SAME is a free, three-week opportunity that enables eighth and ninth grade students to experience first-hand advanced manufacturing skills while earning college credits. Students are introduced to welding, machining and CAD and earn their OSHA 10 certification through the program. Since the program’s inception, several students from the SAME program have chosen to attend WTCC’s Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering program in their junior and senior years of high school. Others have gone on to complete different career and technical programs. “Our students leave with the technical skills such as machining, welding, print reading, G-code, and CAD software applications, but also have the safety and soft skills that make them ready for an entry level experience in many industries,” said McVey.
Barnum agreed these programs are preparing students for the emerging solar workforce. “These are transferable skills. Once I get someone who has these basic skills, I can train them to do anything,” he said.
Discussing the role of higher education in developing this workforce, Barnum pointed out that solar manufacturing needs graduates from many majors, particularly materials science, computer science and engineering disciplines. Linton has partnered with Santosh Kurinec, a Fellow of IEEE and Professor of Electrical and Microelectronic Engineering at RIT to assist with the entry level photovoltaics course. The company also is working with the Golisano Institute for Sustainability at RIT on a study, “Improving Process Quality and Yields through Machine Learning.”
Located in Henrietta, New York, Linton is the world leader in the design, development and manufacture of Czochralski silicon furnaces for production of monocrystalline silicon ingots for the semiconductor and solar industries. The company specializes in silicon and produces equipment for materials such as germanium and gallium arsenide. They also provide technical support, process engineering support and replacement parts to help clients get businesses off the ground, improve productivity and continue to innovate. Linton has been the exclusive owner of Kayex technology since 2013.