Though the state of the economy has caused panic about available jobs, process technology courses offered by technical colleges in Louisiana have an 88 percent success rate at finding those students work after they graduate.
The starting pay, which ranges between $55,000 to $60,000, isn’t too shabby either.
South Central Louisiana Technical College in Reserve has been preparing students for jobs in technical fields since its inception in 1973.
Over the past decade, the technical school has become closer partners with local industry in order to create programs and curriculum that match the school’s students up with skills they need to pursue jobs in local industry.
Jimmy Sawtelle, president and regional director of SCLTC Reserve campus, said each department head meets with industry leaders from across the region on an annual basis.
“It’s in our mission to always be consulting with business and industry to determine what their needs are and us to facilitate those needs based upon the employee that they want to see graduate from us,” Sawtelle said. “So our curriculum, our specialized training, our services are tailored around their needs for them to be successful.”
The school offers two-year degree programs in numerous technical areas including the trades, allied health and more specific programs for big industry such as process technology.
Process technicians oversee chemical reactors within refineries and other types of plants. They run units that utilize chemical, thermal or pressure actions to form a product, such as gasoline or refined sugar, or by-products that are used in other technologies.
Joe Hymel, learning supervisor at Motiva, said the process technology (PTEC) program first began partnering with Motiva six years ago.
“We participated in some pilots after the curriculums were built where they tried the curriculum with students to see if it was too aggressive or too lax,” Hymel said. “Ultimately it was not off target and they were able to proceed. We helped develop the state curriculum.”
Now, the PTEC program has 339 students enrolled throughout the state’s technical colleges and around 100 graduates earn degrees each year. In the last semester of the program, students do an internship where they shadow workers for 120 hours at local facilities.
“They can shadow and get a feel for working in inclement weather and working night shifts versus day shifts,” Hymel said. “It puts them in a real world situation.”
Sawtelle said about 88 percent of those students are placed immediately after graduation and that they make $55,000 to 60,000 per year starting off.
“The statistics show a graduate from a two-year program in either a technical or community college stands to have a greater earning potential right out of school than even some four year programs,” Sawtelle said.
Hymel said most of the students in the PTEC program in Reserve are offered positions before graduation.
“I know of probably about 20 to 25 students at this facility we have hired,” Hymel said. “There are always numerous industries looking at the graduates.”
Hymel said due to attrition and an aging workforce, Motiva has hired 95 process technicians this year alone and that the plant expects to hire more than 60 next year.
However, he said it has been difficult to get qualified candidates to apply at the plant.
“It’s a chore at times to have enough students graduate to meet facility needs, so we’ve helped advertise the programs,” Hymel said. “We were even sponsoring movie theater advertisements at one point.”
With the current rate of hiring, the schools are having a hard time keeping up with industry demand.
Sawtelle said the PTEC program is currently trying to expand to meet industry needs.
“We are trying to expand and we are trying to find additional classroom space and lab space,” he said.
Monsanto has also partnered with the PTEC program and has a seat on the program’s advisory council.
Dayna Parker, human resources generalist at Monsanto, said that the plant in Luling is looking to hire ten process technicians this year.
“In the past couple years, we have converted several PTEC interns into permanent Monsanto technicians,” Parker said. “This has been a great partnership opportunity for both Monsanto and the Technical College.”
In addition to helping form the PTEC program, both Motiva and Valero have provided teachers for courses at SCLTC.
Valero has partnered with the program since 2003 and also has a member on the PTEC advisory board.
Taryn Rogers, communications director with Valero, said in a statement that the plant has a long-standing relationship with the program and offered some tips to students who are interested in PTEC.
“We would advise students to make sure to learn everything they can about the industry in which they are interested,” Rogers said. “They should set themselves apart from other candidates by getting as much experience as they can.”
Sawtelle said PTEC is only one program that SCTLC coordinates with local industry and that the technical school is increasing partnerships with all manner of industry to enrich the education of local residents and the economy as a whole.
“As a state we want to be able to attract new companies, innovative companies, companies that do not already exist in Louisiana. We want to make it attractive for them to relocate to Louisiana,” Sawtelle said. “We see that our competition is not just neighboring states, but international now. So our secondary goal is to attract new companies and the way to do that is to provide a highly-skilled workforce that are well-versed in high wage, high demand, high-skill areas.”
For more information on programs offered at SCLTC you can visit them on the web at scl.edu.