If you have ever stopped to admire the running lights on your dream car or seen the smart lights in a home that respond through motion detection, then you have glimpsed the world of optoelectronic technology.
Optoelectronics (or optronics) is the study and application of electronic devices and systems that source, detect and control light. It is an expanding field and the fastest growing segment of the semiconductor market.
Market intelligence and advisory company Mordor Intelligence says that the optoelectronics market was valued at US$5.14 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $9.83 billion by 2025.
Recently, 16 instructors and students in electronics and electrical installation from the national training agency, the HEART/NSTA Trust, benefited from training in the field, gaining certification as optoelectronic technicians. This is in preparation for the agency to offer optoelectronics as a training progamme in January 2021.
The course was conducted virtually over several weeks in partnership with World Skills, an organisation centred on skills development in youth worldwide, as well as the VCOM College in China.
Instructor Ainsworth Watson tells JIS News that it was his first virtual training course and he enjoyed the experience, even though at the start it was a bit difficult to understand.
“However, because I have electrical knowledge and I am a person who is always seeking to learn new things, I was able to grasp all the knowledge being imparted. So basically, the experience was really awesome and I learnt a lot as it relates to using smart devices to control lighting,” he says.
Mr. Watson adds that he also gained valuable knowledge about “the different things that we can use to have efficient and effective lighting. It really enhanced my knowledge as it relates to how I go about doing even simple electrical circuits”.
Senior Instructor, Shalik Walker, tells JIS News that he has a keen interest in using smart lighting to save energy.
“You can implement things like motion sensors, so that if there is no occupant in the room, your lights will come off automatically. That could save people money because, right now, most of our switches are on and off and someone has to physically be in the room to turn them off. So if you are only using light when you need it, that can save you a lot of energy,” he points out.
Mr. Walker notes that this type of technology can be implemented in the typical Jamaican household.
“There are already over-the-counter smart lights that almost anybody can install – very simple ones. If you want one that’s a bit more complicated you would need someone with a bit more expertise. But it is definitely something applicable to regular households and businesses as well,” he says.
Instructor, Martin Plummer, for his part, says that while optoelectronics is still an emerging field, it is becoming more expansive in areas such as light-emitting diode (LED) screens, lighting and fibre optics.
“I think it will be expanding for quite some time. [During the training] we focused mainly on lighting and LED screens and those were very fascinating in and of themselves. So we went through the process of assembling LED lights, installing them and how you maintain them afterwards, and that is certainly applicable to Jamaica as a technology,” he notes.
Electrician and trainee from the Southwest TVET Campus in Black River, Marlon Barnes, tells JIS News that optoelectronics is a new experience for him.
“I stick straight to installation, which is the hardcore wiring, so I do residential and commercial jobs. I really don’t go into electronics but it (the training) has encouraged me now to get more into it, as I interface with it every day. So I will also encourage others to try it too,” he says.
Trainee from the Rockfort Vocational Training Centre, Latoya Duval, for her part, notes that the course has opened her appetite for wider training in the field.
Meanwhile, Managing Director of the HEART/NSTA Trust, Janet Dyer, says the addition of optoelectronics to the agency’s training offerings next January will enable persons to merge essential skill areas, making them more marketable.
“The business of HEART training a person to do electrical installation, yes that is needed, but the new skills [being demanded] now are where you can twin the robotics and the mechanisation with the electrical installation components.
“So persons who are doing renewable energy, with that skill (optoelectronics technology), you can go in and do all the components of renewable energy. So, instead of somebody doing the mechanics and another person doing the electrical, one person can come and do all of this work with that new skill,” Dr. Dyer outlines.
Persons working in or interested in technical and mechanical jobs in manufacturing industries and solar panel work can also benefit from training in optoelectronics.