The growing popularity of technology programs will eventually require Fulton-Montgomery Community College to expand, the college’s president said Friday.
FMCC welcomed U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., for a tour of its cleanroom and an update on the institution’s role in training students in a career field that’s blossoming in the Capital Region.
Roughly 200 of the college’s 2,800 students are studying in science fields.
And the experience they’re getting at FMCC is leading to salaries in the $50,000 range, according to a survey of graduates.
“A lot of people are looking at what we’re creating here,” said Richard Prestopnik, a professor of electrical and computer technology.
Students are learning how to use atomic force microscopes and scanning electron microscopes and how to gear up for work in a cleanroom where silicon wafers used in computers are developed at places like GlobalFoundries in Malta.
The college has developed relationships with the Capital Region’s driving forces in nanotechnology, including GlobalFoundries and SUNY’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. These relationships elevate learning at FMCC to the point where students like Chris Renda, 39, are moving right into jobs.
Renda graduated last year and now has a job at GlobalFoundries in Malta, a success he attributes to learning at FMCC. Renda started out as a telecommunications technician at age 19, but after 20 years, he was yearning for more.
“I had learned all I was going to learn in my career,” he said.
“Without having the education I had here, I would have known nothing about what I was getting myself into,” he said. “When you walk into a facility like that, you can actually speak the language that they’re speaking.”
Gillibrand visited a classroom Friday and offered words of encouragement for students learning in a field expected to propel New York state into the future.
“You are part of that revolution, and I am just grateful that you want to be part of this very growing opportunity for our state,” Gillibrand told the class.
FMCC President Dustin Swanger said having representatives from Malta-based GlobalFoundries take part in the college’s training programs on a regular basis is a major benefit for students.
And ongoing growth at the SUNY Institute of Technology near Utica puts the region in the right spot to take advantage of the rapidly emerging career fields based on technology and nanotechnology. Industries cluster around such facilities reaching a 60-mile radius, he said.
“This Mohawk Valley is right in the middle of that. There’s no way that we can’t prosper from those two developments in our area,” Swanger said.
The college has added laboratories to accommodate growth so far, but it’s likely more will be needed to deal with future demand, he said.
“I think we’re going to have to add capacity and technologies. When a technology company locates, certainly one as big as GlobalFoundries, when that locates, other technology companies cluster around it,” Swanger said.