Front Range Community College to play a pivotal role in developing the state’s new tech hub.
With Colorado’s new designation as a Quantum Technology Hub, Front Range Community College has been tapped by state and industry leaders to help build the state’s quantum technology workforce. FRCC is the only community college in the state with an optics and photonics program that directly supports the quantum workforce.
The US Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration announced Monday that Colorado’s Elevate Quantum consortium will be designated a Regional Technology Hub for Quantum Information Technology (QIT). As a member of the Elevate Quantum coalition, FRCC has been supporting the state’s bid for Tech Hub designation—and will play a critical role in these statewide efforts moving forward.
Quantum Is the Future
“Quantum Information Technology will shape the next century as profoundly as integrated circuits or the internet shaped the previous one,” said FRCC President Colleen Simpson, EdD, who serves as a board member for Elevate Quantum. “Its applications will span from climate tech and drug discoveries to defense and finance. And Front Range Community College is committed to making sure our students get the skills they need to succeed in the state’s burgeoning quantum economy.”
Quantum technology works by using the physics of sub-atomic particles. (Think protons, neutrons, electrons.) Today semiconductors in your smartphone already use quantum technology. In the near future, this rapidly-emerging technology promises improvements to a vast range of devices and systems—from more reliable navigation systems to more accurate healthcare imaging.
Quantum technology will improve computers’ ability to analyze data and will accelerate the performance of machine learning algorithms. It will lead to faster, more powerful computers that can solve problems that are too complex for today’s devices.
Building the Quantum Workforce
FRCC will support Elevate Quantum in reaching its goal of helping 30,000 workers develop new skills for quantum jobs. Almost half of these jobs don’t require advanced degrees, which means the industry offers a vast array of employment opportunities across different educational backgrounds.
The average quantum job pays more than $125,000 per year.
The share of technician roles in the quantum industry is expected to double in the next five years. Critical jobs in this field will also include machinists, soldering technicians, welders and other technical roles—and FRCC already offers high-quality programs in related fields such as automation, electronics engineering, precision machining and welding.
Quantum Education Is Critical
“Optics skills are quantum skills,” said Corban Tillemann-Dick, CEO of Maybell Quantum and Chair of Colorado’s Elevate Quantum Tech Hub consortium, the largest regional coalition of quantum organizations in the US. “With FRCC’s well-established Optics Technology program, the college is very well positioned to help build the quantum workforce Colorado needs today and as the industry expands.”
Optics is a branch of physics that involves the behavior and properties of light. Optics and photonics are used in everything from the bar code scanner at your grocery store and your cell phone to high-powered lasers, telescopes and space exploration.
FRCC’s high-tech Optics Technology program focuses on training optics, photonics and laser technicians—who are all critical to the quantum workforce. The program has doubled in size year-over-year since it began in 2019. It initially offered a shorter-term certification, but now also offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in optics. By further expanding the program, FRCC will be able to include even more quantum applications in its advanced course curriculum.
“Optics isn’t our only program that enables quantum technology. Some of our other advanced manufacturing programs will be utilized in the quantum industry as well,” said FRCC Optics Program Director Amanda Meier, PhD. “Colorado’s new tech hub designation will enable us to build out our curriculum and lab spaces to teach more of these critical quantum-related skills. We can’t wait to expand our programs and incorporate quantum education into more of our offerings.”
As the largest community college in Colorado, FRCC works closely with businesses across all sectors of the economy to design training that aligns with specific industry needs. “Working with industry to build workforce pipelines is in our DNA,” said President Simpson. “FRCC’s expertise comes from more than 50 years of experience building the right programs to fit our communities’ economic needs.”
“FRCC’s Center for Integrated Manufacturing is the ideal place to start training Colorado’s quantum workforce,” Simpson adds. “By building on our existing programs and infrastructure, we can create specialized training that aligns with the needs of the quantum industry.”
Creating Equitable Opportunities to Be Part of the Quantum Revolution
“Elevate Quantum is deeply committed to promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and belonging in our industry,” said Tillemann-Dick. “Colorado now has an opportunity to build—from the ground up—a statewide quantum ecosystem that is diverse, inclusive and equitable. One way we can do that is by embracing hands-on, skills-based lifelong learning pathways.”
The coalition’s equity commitment is backed by tangible goals. Elevate Quantum aims to have 40% inclusion of traditionally underrepresented groups in quantum jobs and leadership roles within a decade.
“FRCC’s mission is to make educational access and success attainable for all,” said President Simpson. “This is a key part of who we are as an institution, which makes us uniquely well positioned to help Elevate Quantum’s reach its inclusivity goals.”
As an open-access institution, FRCC focuses on serving historically underserved populations. Our students are:
- 48% first-generation college students
- From 55 countries
- 32% Pell Grant eligible
- 34% students of color
As a member of the Elevate Quantum coalition, FRCC expects to work with industry partners to build new apprenticeships and/or internship opportunities for the quantum workforce. The college also plans to expand its existing optics program to include more of the highest priority knowledge, skills and abilities for quantum technicians, including low-temperature and superconducting course work. FRCC faculty will also be able to use the Elevate Quantum Lab for technical support.
“FRCC’s existing programs already offer pathways for people who have been underserved by past technology revolutions to be part of the Quantum Future,” added President Simpson. “With Tech Hub designation we expect to be able to scale up our programs and use them as a model throughout the region. Helping to build the quantum workforce—through innovative, tailored programming and degree offerings—ensures our students are well-equipped to navigate the quantum landscape and seize the exciting opportunities it presents.”
For media inquiries, please contact:
Jessica Peterson, FRCC Public Relations Director
About Front Range Community College
Front Range Community College offers more than 200 degrees and certificates in a wide variety of programs from locations in Boulder County, Larimer County and Westminster—as well as online. FRCC is a member of the Colorado Community College System.
About the Colorado Community College System
The Colorado Community College System (CCCS) is the state’s largest system of higher education, serving 114,000 students annually at 13 colleges and 35 locations across Colorado. Our open access mission ensures all Coloradans who aspire to enrich their lives have access to quality higher education opportunities.