Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct a typographical error in a quotation and to clarify when Finisar expects to begin producing samples.
Grayson College has announced that it has received a $541,000 grant for the training of Finisar's first wave of employees. College officials said this training will be designed to prepare the employees for their upcoming duties and the conditions they will be working in.
The grant, issued by the Texas Workforce Commission as a part of the Skills Development Fund program, will be primarily focused on providing training for newly-hired employees while also providing additional training for experienced employees, college officials said.
“This is mostly about what does a new hire coming in need to know to function in their job,” Djuna Forrester, executive director of the Grayson College Center for Workplace Learning, said in a phone interview Tuesday.
In December, Finisar announced plans to expand its production of vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers at its new Sherman facility in 2018. The plant was formerly the home of MEMC, but had remained vacant for some several years before it was purchased by Finisar.
VCSELs are a small semiconductor device that use light to measure the depth at which light is reflected, and are used in Apple iPhone product line for 3-D sensing technology, including Face ID and Animoji among other features.
Forrester said the program will cover a variety of topics ranging from how to handle the electronic wafers used to produce the VCSELs, chemical safety and clean-room safety. In addition to these skills, Forrester said employees will also be given the opportunity to get experience working in the clean suits, also known as “bunny suits,” that will be used in the Finisar plant.
This would also give prospective employees the chance to feel out the work conditions and determine if it is a good fit for them, Forrester said.
With these training session and classes, Forrester said GC has had to bring in local experts with experience in semiconductor and electronic production to assist and provide expertise.
“Since this involves clean-room safety, this is sort of new territory for us,” she said.
Currently, the future employees are being trained in groups of 18, with plans for the training of the initial wave of employees to be completed in February 2019.
For some of the new employees, this will be their first steps into semiconductor manufacturing, Jeff Brown, general manager and vice president of Finisar Sherman said. With the news of Finisar coming to Sherman, Brown said it brought in applicants with a wide range of experience.
“For the project in Sherman, there a wide range of jobs,” he said, noting that it gives Finisar the ability to “train from the ground up.”
Brown said more than 50 percent of the initial wave of employees have some experience in the field, but he expects this to decline over time as future generations of workers are hired on.
“In the future, as we move forward, it could be near zero (percent), and we are OK with this,” he said.
Forrester said the training for the first set of employees started in May through Finisar before the grant was officially awarded. However, when the grant was awarded to GC on June 25, the college was ready to move forward with the program within a day, she said.
So far, the training has produced 60 employees, Brown said, with the plant on track to produce its first samples within the next month. Brown said the company plans to ship the first samples to customers in September.