By Halen Doughty
2020 has been vastly different than anyone expected. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in countless ways, from the way we work to the way we go to school. Many businesses closed their doors for months, employees began working from home, and students transitioned to online learning. For the Class of 2020 and other recent graduates, graduation ceremonies were cancelled, and their senior year certainly did not go as planned.
The same is true for graduates of the Dow U.S. Apprenticeship Program. The program includes college coursework and on the job training for various technical roles at Dow. The recent graduates of this program have had to manage their education and the start of their careers, on top of new social distancing and hygiene practices. We are proud to say they have risen to the challenge and succeeded in both their academic and professional endeavors.
The Dow U.S. Apprenticeship Program is a three to four year program consisting of college coursework, study/lab time, and on the job training to prepare apprentices for a future career in one of our technical roles. Dow pays tuition and all academic related fees and provides a learning environment for them to train at our facilities while attending college. Apprentice Leader Alisha Nash said the Dow U.S. Apprenticeship Program is beneficial to both Dow and the students.
“The program allows Dow to hire individuals and cultivate them through academics and on the job training to create a pipeline of highly skilled and qualified employees for various future tech roles,” Nash said.
Along with receiving an AAS degree, the apprentices are required to complete a specified number of on the job training hours in order to complete the program and receive credentials from Dow, the U.S. Department of Labor, and Louisiana Workforce Commission. Jobs in the program include Process Techs, Instrument Techs, Millwrights, Electrical Techs, and Lab Techs.
Instrument Technician Brodi Hill is a recent graduate of the program. He earned his degree from River Parish Community College in December, and he has moved into a full-time position at Dow St. Charles Operations.
Hill said the COVID-19 pandemic did not directly impact his schooling because he finished his coursework in December. He noted, however, that his graduation ceremony was affected and his school had a drive through graduation instead.
Working during a pandemic presents new challenges that even veteran employees at Dow had to overcome. Hill said his area leader and his apprentice leader did a great job in keeping constant communication with him and the rest of the group.
“They were there to help with any problems we had during the pandemic,” Hill said.
Now that he has finished school, Hill plans to continue to grow in his career at Dow.
“The apprentice program has given me an opportunity to get my foot into an amazing company, and I want to use the opportunity to further my career with Dow,” Hill said.
Associate Maintenance Technician Gavin Blakely received his degree from River Parish Community College. He also graduated in December and said while his schooling was not affected by COVID, his work on site was. He was pleased with how quickly Dow leadership responded to the virus.
“When COVID first hit, Dow immediately started putting precautions in place and started reducing head count to stop the spread,” Blakely said. “Hand sanitizers, Clorox wipes, cleaning services, and mask where handed out and stocked up for whoever may have needed them.”
Blakely explained that in-person meetings were cancelled and moved to virtual calls to minimize exposure. He said leaders kept in contact with employees to make sure the team was taking necessary precautions and staying healthy.
“Dow did great to prevent the spread and is still enforcing precautions so that everyone is safe in the work areas,” Blakely said.
With school behind him and return to workplace plans taking shape, Blakely is ready to hit the ground running. He said after his graduation he received a full-time job offer on site. He credits the apprentice program to helping jumpstart his career with Dow.
“The apprenticeship is a great program to get your foot in the door. It allows you to knock the class room and on the job training out all in one,” Blakely said. “From the apprenticeship to a full time roll, I plan to spend the rest of my career with Dow!”
Congratulations to the graduates of the Dow U.S. Apprenticeship Program!