Lee students selected for scholarships to pursue careers in chemical industry

Lee College students selected to receive scholarships this year.
Lee College students selected to receive scholarships this year from the Community College Petrochemical Initiative attended a recognition luncheon Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, at the ExxonMobil office in Baytown. Pictured (l-r): Woody Paul, Manager of the ExxonMobil Baytown Olefins Plant; Dr. Christina Ponce, Lee College Executive Vice President; students Crisol Napoles, Edmeade Prentice and Christopher Patterson; Dr. Angela Oriano, Lee College Vice President of Workforce & Corporate Partnerships; and Dr. Dennis Brown, Lee College President.

BAYTOWN, TX — After leaving school 10 years ago to focus on his family, Christopher Patterson willingly accepted a pay cut to be able to return to Lee College and finish what he started: pursuit of an associate degree.

Now majoring in process technology, Patterson is one of three Lee College students who will receive scholarships this year from the Community College Petrochemical Initiative (CCPI). Crisol Napoles and Edmeade Prentice were also selected and joined other scholarship recipients Aug. 3 at the ExxonMobil office in Baytown for a recognition luncheon. In total, CCPI awarded $45,000 in scholarships to 38 students from all nine community colleges along the Texas Gulf Coast that can be used for tuition, fees, books or other training program expenses.

Funded through a grant from ExxonMobil, CCPI is a collaboration of the Texas Gulf Coast community colleges to recruit and train the next generation of petrochemical and construction trades workers for the Houston-Galveston region. Since its launch five years ago, ExxonMobil has contributed more than $2 million to CCPI to support training in petrochemical fields like computer-aided drafting and design, electrical technology, instrumentation, machine technology, millwrighting, pipefitting, process technology and welding. Lee College is the lead institution in the initiative.

“I have an analytical mind and as I dive into process technology, I always want to know more,” said Patterson, who will graduate from Lee College in a year. “The CCPI scholarship means so much to me. I had to make several sacrifices in order to come back to school and even though it may be hard work, I know it will pay off for me and my family in the long run.”

Potential salaries average nearly $100,000 a year for skilled workers in the growing chemical manufacturing industry, and companies are projected to need more than 50,000 new workers in the Gulf Coast area over the next 10 years. In a keynote address to the scholarship recipients, Mike Zamora, director of Americas Regional Manufacturing for ExxonMobil Chemical, praised the work of the CCPI and noted the wealth of opportunities awaiting students as they prepare to embark on petrochemical careers.

“The Community College Petrochemical Initiative partnership is a wonderful example of what can be accomplished when employers and educators work together,” Zamora said. “Encouraging and developing a well-educated and skilled workforce is vital to the industry’s success in meeting a growing global demand for chemical products and continuing economic growth and prosperity in Gulf communities.”

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.

‘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.

Lee College Vice President Debi Jordan to retire in January 2017

Debi Jordan and the Lee College leadership
Debi Jordan, second from the left, with Lee College President Dr. Dennis Brown, Lee College’s Community College Petrochemical Initiative (CCPI) 2016 scholarship recipients, Executive Vice President Dr. Christina Ponce and CCPI Grant Coordinator Kelly Dando at the 2016 CCPI Scholarship Reception. Jordan will retire from her position as Vice President of Workforce and Corporate Partnerships in January 2017.

BAYTOWN, TX When Debi Jordan was given the task of researching self-sustaining training programs at community colleges in 2005, she had no idea where it would end up. Seven years later, Lee College President Dr. Dennis Brown and its Board of Regents gave the go-ahead to launch the Lee College Center for Workforce and Community Development, and after a nationwide search, Jordan was selected to lead.

Now Jordan, the Vice President of Workforce and Corporate Partnerships, is ready to experience another new chapter: retirement. Jordan’s daughter is expecting a little girl in December, and she said though the decision was difficult, it became much easier with each ultrasound she saw.

“Being able to watch my daughter becoming a mom to her own daughter — it is coming full circle. I feel so blessed to have had such a great career, and Lee College really is my home,” Jordan said. “But this next part of my life feels so natural. With the help of a lot of great people, I believe this center — my third child — is in a great place. The foundation is stable, and under new leadership it’s poised to move to the next level. I’m ready to be a BeBe to my sweet Ella Rae, and to watch the center continue to grow.”

Over the past four years, the center has hosted 1,710 classes, served 7,694 different students and boasts a total enrollment count of 17,559 thanks to repeat students.

“Lee College is full of great people and Debi definitely shines in that group,” said Executive Vice President Dr. Christina Ponce. “She is one of the most professional, dedicated and hard-working individuals I have ever met. She has made such a tremendous difference not only at Lee College’s Center for Workforce and Community Development, but the entire community and the college as a whole. She is extremely loved and appreciated in our community for being an incredible civic oriented leader, a friend to all and a pioneer in workforce education. We are indebted to Debi for all she has been able to accomplish.”

Jordan helped establish and maintain partnerships with organizations like the Baytown/West Chambers County Economic Development Foundation, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, East Harris County Manufacturers Association, Economic Alliance Houston Port Region and the Greater Houston Partnership, as well as industry partners such as ExxonMobil, ChevronPhillips Chemical, Enterprise Products, Covestro, Shell, Bechtel and Jacobs.

“ExxonMobil deeply appreciates the support that Debi Jordan has provided our company during her time at Lee College, especially regarding our Community College Petrochemical Initiative (CCPI) workforce development program,” said Connie Tilton of ExxonMobil Public and Government Affairs. “CCPI has been recognized across the state and nationally as a premiere program, and Debi’s leadership and vision has been the driving force behind it. Our workforce and community are better due to her dedication and hard work. Debi is leaving a legacy at Lee College, and it’s been our honor and privilege to work with her.”

Pam Warford, Executive Director of the Lee College Foundation, Director of Foundation and Donor Relations and a lifelong friend, described Jordan’s contributions to the college as intangible.

“She has increased our reach through relationships with individuals, organizations and consortiums.  These relationships have benefited the college in a huge way,” Warford said. “In addition, she has worked hard to bring the types of courses to Lee College that our partners in the industry have asked for — customized, fast-tracked training.”

Jordan helped organize and lead ExxonMobil’s initial $500,000 grant that established the CCPI. The grant, which has since increased to a total of total of $1.8 million, funds workforce development for the Houston-area petrochemical industry through nine local community colleges.

“Debi has been a unique asset to Lee College, and though we’re happy for her next chapter, we’re deeply saddened about losing her. Her networking skills, business acumen and passion for improving the lives of those around her will be missed,” Brown said. “We will conduct a national search for her replacement.”

In the interim, leadership of regional workforce initiatives will transition to Ponce. The Center’s leadership, which includes Interim Director of Corporate Services Marsha Tuha, Community Education Director Kimberlee Techeira and Business Operations Manager Delma Garcia, will lead the teams and day-to-day operations of the center under Ponce’s direction.

“I’ve known Debi for 10 years, and we’ve worked together for four years. I was a part of the center’s team when it began, so I’ve had a unique opportunity to witness and be part of the great things she’s done. She’s a special person to work for, because she’s so passionate and skilled at what she does. She isn’t just a boss, she’s a leader with a big heart,” Tuha said. “I’m happy that she’ll be able to spend time with her new grandbaby, but I’m definitely going to miss her. We all are.”

Jordan’s retirement is effective Jan. 1, 2017. She has also been a partner in an independent insurance agency in West Texas for nearly 30 years. She is a licensed agent, and plans on becoming more involved in the business.

Lee College thanks Jordan for her dedication & long-lasting impact in the community and workforce training.

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 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

First graduates complete Lee College ‘Ready to Work’ industrial training program

Grant-funded initiative prepares students for careers in the growing petrochemical industry

Lee College H1-B Ready to Work Grant graduates
The first graduates of the Lee College ‘Ready to Work’ grant program received certificates of completion in late April at the McNair Center. The program is funded through the U.S. Department of Labor and targets the long-term unemployed and underemployed for petrochemical training. Back row (l-r) – Kevin Dorsey, Kyle Eubanks and Daniel Polen. Front row (l-r) – Kyle Thompson, Frank Bunton, instructor Robert Bernardino, Carlos Gonzales, Christopher Geant and Davidson Timothy.

BAYTOWN, TX — Kevin Dorsey was out of work and looking for a way to better support his family when a local employment resource agency pointed him toward the Center for Workforce and Community Development at Lee College, which offers an innovative program to help train the long-term unemployed and underemployed for petrochemical careers.

Through funding from the H1-B Gulf Coast Ready to Work Grant awarded to the college by the U.S. Department of Labor, the workforce center is providing industrial crafts training in several high-demand and high-growth fields: welding, electrical, millwright, instrumentation, pipefitting, process technology refresher, first-line supervisor and project management. Students learn from instructors with years of industry experience, using the latest tools of the trade and cutting-edge technology found in the real working environment.

Tuition in the H1-B Ready to Work program is free to eligible participants, and those who successfully complete the training earn credentials from the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) recognized by companies throughout the petrochemical and construction industries.

When the first graduates from the H1-B pipefitting class received their certificates in April in a ceremony at the recently opened Lee College McNair Center, Dorsey was among them — and more hopeful than ever about his chances to find stable and well-paying employment.

“Pipefitting wasn’t even my first choice, but I stuck with it and really enjoyed it,” Dorsey said. “It’s a different skill set that not a lot of people have or can do. This program gave us the training to put us above other people applying for the same jobs.”

Debi Jordan, executive director of the workforce center, told the graduates that Lee College’s industry partners are awaiting candidates with the strong work ethic, knowledge and credentials they gained through completion of the H1-B Ready to Work program.

“You have been given the tools to get a very well-paying job and make a great career out of it,” Jordan said. “There is going to be something good out there for you.”

For more information about enrolling in the U.S. Department of Labor H1-B Gulf Coast Ready to Work 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 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.

Educate Texas gives $750K for STEM degree accelerator

College to lead regional consortium focused on preparing students for petrochemical sector

BAYTOWN – Lee College has been awarded a $750,000 grant from Educate Texas to lead a regional consortium that aims to increase the number of underrepresented students earning science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) credentials and entering the petrochemical workforce.

Posed shot with donation check
Parties involved in the Gulf Coast consortium of the Texas Regional STEM Degree Accelerator initiative gathered in Houston on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, to announce the grant award from Educate Texas. Pictured (left to right): Woody Paul, ExxonMobil; Debi Jordan, Lee College; Christy Ponce, Lee College; Peter Beard, Greater Houston Partnership; Allatia Harris, San Jacinto College; Dennis Brown, President, Lee College; Craig Beskid, East Harris County Manufacturers Association; Carolyn Watson, Global Philanthropy / JPMorgan Chase; Richard McKeon, Helmsley Charitable Trust; Angela Oriano, Lee College; Ann Pham, Houston-Galveston Area Council; Melissa Duarte, Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District; and Mike Krall, Lone Star College.

Lee College is one of only five institutions of higher education in Texas selected to receive grant funds for the Texas Regional STEM Degree Accelerator initiative. Each recipient convened a regional consortium that includes two-year colleges, four-year colleges, K-12 partners and workforce partners.

Consortium members have examined regional workforce data, identified the STEM pathways in which they plan to work and begun engaging faculty and workforce partners to achieve two goals: redesigning gateway courses in STEM majors to ensure alignment with workforce needs in the petrochemical industry, and providing professional development for faculty to improve teaching and learning in STEM fields.

“Lee College is privileged to serve as the Gulf Coast lead for the Texas STEM Accelerator Grant,” said Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown, noting the importance of coordinated efforts to close the middle-skills gap in the region. “We have to strengthen the education to workforce pipeline through collaboration, but more importantly, through innovation. By bringing all partners — secondary and post-secondary educators, business and industry, workforce boards and others — we are more likely to build strong models that are replicable, scalable and sustainable.”

The STEM Accelerator project is developed in accordance with priorities for education and workforce outlined by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Workforce Commission. The grant is funded through the Helmsley Charitable Trust, Greater Texas Foundation, Council for Regional Economic Expansion and Educational Development (CREEED,) JPMorgan Chase and the W.W. Caruth, Jr., Foundation. It is the first time the Helmsley Trust has ever funded a project outside New York State.

“The Texas Regional STEM Degree Accelerator motivates our education and workforce partners to collaborate at a regional level to develop and refine STEM pathways,” said John Fitzpatrick, executive director of Educate Texas. “These pathways will result in an increased number of students across the state earning STEM degrees that meet regionally-identified workforce needs. We are proud to be working with a strong public-private coalition of national and state foundations, corporations, local business groups and the state of Texas on this pioneering initiative.”

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, community celebrate McNair Center expansion

BAYTOWN, TX — The Lee College McNair Center now has an additional 50,000 square feet of instructional space where students will receive hands-on technical training with the latest technology to prepare for high-paying careers in the growing petrochemical and construction industries.

McNair Ribbon-Cutting
Photo by ©Kim Christensen
Lee College celebrated this month the grand opening of the newly expanded McNair Center, where students will receive hands-on instruction for well-paying petrochemical and construction careers. Pictured (l-r): Regent Keith Coburn, Regent Susan Moore-Fontenot, Regent Pete Alfaro, Regent Ronn Haddox, Regent Judy Jirrels, Regent Weston Cotten, Regent Wayne Gray and Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown.

More than 100 community members, elected officials and industry leaders joined Lee College this month to celebrate the grand opening of the $12 million McNair Center expansion, which was completed in January and now houses programs in machining, millwrighting, welding and pipefitting. Student ambassadors led attendees on tours of the facility before Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown and members of the Board of Regents gathered to cut the ceremonial ribbon.

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 or more annually with a two-year degree.

“At Lee College, we are changing the conversation about workforce education in our community,” Brown said. “No longer are we simply preparing students for jobs; we are preparing them for well-paying careers that last a lifetime. In the newly expanded McNair Center, more students than ever will have the opportunity to become the fully employable, highly skilled workers that industry so greatly needs. ”

Students at the center will learn within a modern industrial environment closely modeled after what they will find upon entering the workforce. Course curricula are built around standards set by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), allowing students to earn industry-recognized credentials that make them more competitive in the job market.

“Opportunities abound in industrial construction for anyone interested in launching a career in a lucrative skilled trade,” said Debi Jordan, executive director of the Center for Workforce and Community Development, noting the increased need for a robust pipeline of candidates to fill thousands of available positions. “Industry is looking to Lee College to help fill that pipeline, and the McNair Center will provide best-in-class facilities.”

The McNair Center will also host daytime dual-credit classes this fall that allow high school students to earn college credits, and offer evening and weekend courses for working adults who want to pursue higher education while managing job and family responsibilities.

“The expansion will allow Lee College to provide quality educational programs that are in high demand in our region,” said Dr. Cathy Kemper-Pelle, vice president of Learning. “Area residents will have ready access to welding, pipefitting, machining, and millwright programs in a convenient location along Interstate 10. Students will learn from top quality instructors in state-of-the-art labs. This facility is a game-changer.”

The McNair Center expansion was funded through a bond issue approved in 2013 by 72 percent of voters. Brown credited the overwhelming support of the community, Board of Regents, local school districts, industry partners, elected officials and McNair neighbors for helping bring to fruition the shared goal to create the premiere industrial and technical training facility in the region.

“The McNair Center — and the students whose journey to a brighter future will take them through its new laboratories and classrooms — has given all of us a reason to be proud,” Brown 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 office 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 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.