‘Ready to Work’ grant program trains students for petrochemical careers

Free program offered through the workforce center targets unemployed & underemployed

H-1B Ready to Work Petrochem Grant grads and staff from the Center for Workforce and Community Development
Graduates of the Lee College H-1B Ready to Work Petrochem Grant program gathered with staff from the Center for Workforce and Community Development on Thursday, May 18, 2017, to celebrate completing their classes and earning nationally recognized industry credentials. Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, the program offers free training to help the long-term unemployed and underemployed prepare for petrochemical careers.

BAYTOWN, TX — After completing free training at Lee College and earning craft and trade credentials recognized by employers around the country, nearly 40 students are now ready to begin careers in the booming petrochemical industry.

Lee College celebrated in late May the newest graduates of the H-1B Ready to Work Petrochem Grant program funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. Offered through the Center for Workforce and Community Development at no cost to eligible participants, the program is designed to help the long-term unemployed and underemployed gain the knowledge and skills they need to prepare for high-growth and high-demand industry jobs in the Texas Gulf Coast region. Courses include pipefitting, welding, millwright, electrical, instrumentation, first-line supervisor, project management and process technology refresher — all taught by instructors with years of professional experience, using the latest tools of the trade and new technology found in the real-world working environment.

Dedra Moore had been looking to get into instrumentation for two years when she learned about the H-1B grant program and was referred to Lee College by Workforce Solutions.

“I didn’t give it a second thought; I was determined to get into that class and I didn’t want to miss a thing,” Moore said. “Our instructors were amazing. They motivated us and made sure each individual student understood every concept. They gave us 100 percent more than what we learned in the textbook. We were taught what to expect when we get into the industry, things to look for and the right questions to ask. When we get out there, we’ll know exactly what we’re looking at and what to do.”

At the end of each course, students receive certificates confirming they have successfully completed training and earned the National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER) credentials that employers in the petrochemical and construction industries trust and can verify.

“With all your hard work and dedication, you persisted to the end,” Marsha Tuha, director of Workforce Development, told the graduates. “This is the first step toward some amazing changes to come in your lives.”

And that’s exactly what graduate Roger Williams is confident he will make after completing the H-1B pipefitting course: a major change for the better. The Trinidad native led a rough life before immigrating to the United States, where he has earned his GED and also plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree after finding a position in the petrochemical industry.

“This program has been a life-changing experience and the perfect start,” Williams said. “I encourage and talk to everyone I know about it because it’s wonderful and it’s worth it.”

For more information about eligibility for and enrolling in the H-1B Ready to Work Petrochem Grant program at Lee College, contact the Center for Workforce and Community Development at 281.425.6311 or visit www.lee.edu/workforce/ready2work.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 15 school systems. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Project GRAD program at Lee College Education Center – South Liberty County

High-schoolers from Dayton, Hardin and Liberty participated in College & Career Institute

Students at Career Fair
Local high-school students attending this summer the J.P. Morgan Chase College and Career Institute at Lee College network with representatives from Chevron Phillips Chemical Co., Covestro, ExxonMobil and Noltex at a mock career fair held at the main campus in Baytown. The institute included a variety of career and college exploration activities and was sponsored in partnership with Workforce Solutions and Project GRAD Houston, an organization that aims to help students develop and achieve their educational aspirations.

BAYTOWN, TX — More than two dozen high school students from the Dayton, Hardin and Liberty school districts spent a week at the Lee College Education Center – South Liberty County this summer to attend the J.P. Morgan Chase College and Career Institute, a program sponsored by Project GRAD Houston to help young people start on the path toward a high-wage, high-skill and high-demand career.

Project GRAD Houston aims to improve lives in low-income communities by helping students develop and achieve their educational aspirations. As part of the effort, the program offers college institutes each summer for 1,000 scholars across the Houston area. The J.P. Morgan Chase College and Career Institute at Lee College was also sponsored in partnership with Workforce Solutions.

Lee College hosted the majority of the institute at its new education center in South Liberty County, where faculty gave students an inside look at programs in electrical technology, process technology, logistics, computer-aided drafting and engineering technology. They learned about the hard and soft skills that employers want to see in job candidates, and picked up tips about networking and proper presentation.

The students also took field trips to regional manufacturing facilities and spent their final evening at the main campus in Baytown, participating in a mock career fair with representatives from Chevron Phillips Chemical Co., Covestro, ExxonMobil and Noltex. Robert Bird, a rising senior at Liberty High School, was announced the lucky winner of a $500 scholarship at the institute’s closing ceremony.

Scholarship Winner Robert Bird
Scholarship winner Robert Bird: Robert Bird, a rising senior at Liberty High School, receives a $500 scholarship at the closing ceremony for the J.P. Morgan Chase College and Career Institute at Lee College. The institute included career and college exploration activities for high-school students and was sponsored in partnership with Workforce Solutions and Project GRAD Houston, an organization that aims to help students develop and achieve their educational aspirations.

“At Project GRAD, we say that ‘graduation really achieves dreams,’” Anne Sung, vice president and chief strategy officer for Project GRAD Houston, told the students who completed the institute. “You could have spent your summer vacation doing many things, but you chose to come to Lee College to explore college, explore careers and discover more about yourself.”

Students at the institute developed 30-second commercials about themselves for potential employers and produced videos detailing their future educational and career goals. Adam Percy, a rising sophomore at Liberty High School who aspires to be a lawyer, volunteered to share his commercial live on stage at the closing ceremony and said he learned valuable lessons by participating in the program. When he had his opportunity to speak with process operators from Chevron Phillips at the mock career fair, he felt confident about how to approach and what to say.

“Go to school while you can, and always do the best you can,” Percy said.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Lee to reveal major expansion of McNair Center at Feb. 4 grand opening

BAYTOWN, TX – Lee College will celebrate next week the opening of the 50,000-square-foot expansion of the McNair Center, where students will receive hands-on technical and industrial training for well-paying careers in the booming petrochemical and construction industries.

The grand opening ceremony will be held from 5-7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 4, at the McNair Center, which is located along Interstate 10 and easily accessible from all points of the Lee College service area. The event is free, and members of the public are welcome to attend.

Nearly 200 community members, education and business leaders and other supporters joined Lee College in December 2014 to break ground on the $12 million McNair Center expansion, which will house existing programs in machining, millwrighting, pipefitting and welding. Students will train with the latest tools of the trade in a state-of-the-art industrial environment closely modeled after what they will find upon entering the workforce. Welders, pipefitters, millwrights, and machinists earn a median salary of $18-24 per hour, and have the potential to earn as much as $75,000 annually with a two-year degree.

Lee College has earned national recognition for its high-value curriculum that prepares students for high-paying positions in the petrochemical industry and related sectors. Brookings Institution ranked the college second in the nation for contributing to the economic success of its graduates, finding that Lee College alumni earn an average salary of $69,000 by the time they reach the midpoint of their careers.

Lee College is also the lead institution in the Community College Petrochemical Initiative (CCPI), an ExxonMobil-funded collaboration between the nine Texas Gulf Coast community colleges to help recruit and train new generations of skilled workers needed in the region.

The McNair Center first opened in 2008 and quickly outgrew the available space, prompting an initial renovation that was completed in 2011. The latest expansion project was funded through a bond issue approved in 2013 by 72 percent of voters.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite center in nearby Liberty, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 13 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Women in Industry Conference Feb. 19

Petrochemical refineries need to replace as much as 40 percent of current employees over the next decade — due to plant expansions and an aging workforce.

The need has created a “perfect storm” for women in what was once a virtually exclusive male profession. But no more.

women-in-industry.jpegThe region’s nine community colleges, partnering as the Community College Petrochemical Initiative (CCPI), are encouraging women across the Gulf Coast to explore options in the petrochemical industry in a daylong event on Friday, Feb. 19, at the Hotel Galvez in Galveston.

CCPI is funded by a grant from ExxonMobil.

Attendees will hear from women already working the industry about actual job experiences, how to best prepare for these careers, what training is required, and how to network with other women while on the job.

The conference will include lunch and feature exhibits by area companies. Women will be given time to ask questions, network with women and industry representatives, and make “real connections” with educators, including opportunities to enroll in upcoming classes.

A morning track will provide important information about petrochemical and industrial trades career fields — and how capable, motivated women are finding success in a once male-dominated profession.

An afternoon track will help show women already employed in the industry to “take the next step” on the career ladder, and how to make networking a valuable ally.

Scheduled breaks during the day will provide opportunities for participants to meet industry representatives from companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron Phillips, Covestro, Noltex, Jacobs, and others.

The day will end with “how to make it happen” sessions where women can learn about financial aid, child care, fast track courses, certificate and associate degree programs at the area’s nine community colleges.

Cost for the daylong event is $20 for students and $40 for professionals. Some scholarships are available.

Learn more about Women in Industry at www.womeninpetrochemconference.eventbrite.com or contact Kelly Dando, CCPI grant coordinator, at 281.425.6221, or kdando@lee.edu.

EHCMA donates $140K for scholarships and support

BAYTOWN, TX – Students pursuing technical programs of study at Lee College now have additional money to help fund their education after the East Harris County Manufacturers Association (EHCMA) donated $140,000 for scholarships and other academic support.

ECHMA presentation to Regents
Todd Monette, outgoing Board Chairman for the East Harris County Manufacturers Association (EHCMA), signs a $140,000 donation check Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015, at the regular meeting of the Lee College Board of Regents. The association raised the money at its second annual golf tournament to provide scholarships and support for students in technical programs. Also pictured (l-r) are Pam Warford, Executive Director of the Lee College Foundation; Craig Beskid, EHCMA Executive Director; Monty Heins, incoming EHCMA Board Chairman; Roy Watson, Chairman of the EHCMA Workforce Development Committee; and Ronn Haddox, Chairman of the Lee College Board of Regents.

EHCMA Executive Director Craig Beskid, outgoing Board Chairman Todd Monette, incoming Board Chairman Monty Heins and Workforce Development Committee Chairman Roy Watson presented the donation check Thursday, Dec. 17, at the regular meeting of the Lee College Board of Regents.

The money was raised at the second annual EHCMA Workforce Development Golf Tournament in November, in which more than 35 teams from more than 70 companies in the manufacturing and construction industries participated this year. Proceeds from the tournament exceed the association’s goals, and were divided between Lee and San Jacinto College.

“This funding will have a positive impact on the availability of programs that provide the skills and certifications needed for students within the surrounding communities to enter into the petrochemical and manufacturing workforce,” said Monette, manager of the LyondellBasell Channelview Chemical Complex and featured speaker at the Lee College Fall 2015 Commencement Ceremony. “This golf tournament is one of the many ways EHCMA brings our community together to support the growth of the Houston workforce and provide opportunities for our community.”

EHCMA focuses heavily on the workforce development issues facing the industry and sponsors numerous initiatives to create opportunities for local students to access skilled education programs, particularly focused on successful petrochemical or manufacturing careers.

“Finances are one of the main barriers that our students have to completing their degrees,” said Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown. “These scholarship dollars mean a lot in terms of our students’ ability to really finish what they start. To have industry step forward and provide this kind of an opportunity is amazing.”

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite center in nearby Liberty, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 13 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Jordan: Industry vets can leave legacy as teachers of skilled trades

BAYTOWN, TX — As increasing numbers of students enroll in technical programs that can lead to well-paying careers in the booming petrochemical industry, Lee College and other Texas Gulf Coast institutions are working overtime to recruit and hire enough qualified instructors to meet the demand.

Debi Jordan
Debi Jordan

Debi Jordan, executive director for Workforce and Community Development, wrote about the challenge to find instructors this month in a blog featured on the website for Construction Citizen, a coalition of owners, contractors and craftspeople who want to advance the construction industry.

More than 50,000 new petrochemical workers will be needed across the Texas Gulf Coast over the next decade. Retirees and others who have worked in the petrochemical industry are among the best candidates to train students in pipefitting, millwrighting, instrumentation, electrical, welding, computer maintenance and many other fields — and often, a four-year degree is not required to leave a legacy for the next generation by becoming a teacher of the skilled trades.

“The kinds of things required include industry work experience, a passion for the subject matter, and a willingness to learn new skills through targeted faculty training that we provide for new instructors,” Jordan wrote in her blog. “Other types of instruction require certain industry certifications, educational certificates and degrees and participation in faculty training.”

Full-time and part-time teaching opportunities that include flexible schedules are available now at Lee College and community colleges across the region. For more information, visit the Community College Petrochemical Initiative online at www.energizehouston.org.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite center in nearby Liberty, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 13 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Lee College to host Junior Achievement Inspire career fair

BAYTOWN, TX – Lee College will welcome more than 3,000 local eighth-graders to campus Dec. 14-16 for Junior Achievement Inspire, an interactive experience and career awareness fair that will give the students a glimpse into the wide variety of industries and job opportunities in the region.

This is the second year that Lee College has partnered with Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas to host JA Inspire for students from the Goose Creek, Barbers Hill, Crosby, Hardin, Liberty, Dayton, Hull-Daisetta, East Chambers and Anahuac independent school districts. The event will showcase the growing demand for local jobs in interest areas that align with high school endorsement tracks in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Business & Industry, Public Services and Arts and Humanities. All eighth-graders in Texas must select a track of study before entering high school.

The students will begin their JA Inspire day at Lee College with an opening ceremony, then rotate to interact with businesses through industry presentations, career stations and exhibits and displays from regional companies. They will also participate in a soft-skills play that explores the intangible qualities employers look for in prospective hires, like leadership and communication, before wrapping up their time on campus by recapping their experiences and hearing from event sponsors.

For more information about the JA Inspire program, contact Junior Achievement of South Texas at 713.682.4500 or visit www.juniorachievement.org/web/ja-set.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite center in nearby Liberty, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 13 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.