Training according to immediate oil and gas needs moves graduates into workforce

12.09.2014 | By Jeannie Peng-Armao

San Jacinto College supplying the region’s key industries with trained workers

PASADENA, Texas – Everyone Joshua White knows within the field of instrumentation is working. This could explain why after just one year of studying instrumentation at San Jacinto College, he was offered a job. Four years later, he is making well over $70,000 a year working in the oil and gas industry.

"The jobs are plentiful," said White, who was hired on with Rice University as an instrumentation technician upon graduating and has since been hired with Kinder Morgan to work with natural gas pipelines. "The money varies where you go, but it is really great in oil and gas."

White's story isn't unique, especially to the Texas Gulf Coast region. Lately, companies have been upping the offers to attract workers to the oil and gas industry and playing a larger role in training programs at local colleges like San Jacinto College. Graduates out of process technology, non-destructive testing, welding, pipefitting, electrical, and instrumentation are in high demand throughout the region. Companies like Shell and Lubrizol contribute thousands of dollars each year toward scholarships just to get students through the oil and gas-related programs and into the hiring process and workforce pipeline.

Major factors that contribute to the need for more workers include expansions with large corporations like ExxonMobil, set to create 10,000 construction jobs and more than 4,000 related jobs with its multi-billion dollar expansion project in Baytown. The company recently contributed $1 million toward workforce training and student scholarships at local community colleges. Celanese Corp. announced its construction plans for a plant in Clear Lake. Dow Chemical Co. also is building a new chemical facility in Houston. Shale gas investment contributes a consistent share of employment by industry, according to an IHS Global Insight forecast analysis. Demands in natural gas helps to sustain mining, construction, and manufacturing jobs.

"All of the factors are in place in this region to create this need for a bigger workforce in oil and gas, and manufacturing,” said Jeffrey Parks, dean of business and technology at San Jacinto College. “We’ve made it our mission to help people obtain these very lucrative careers with the potential for career growth. We wouldn’t be able to do this without working closely with companies to find out exactly the type of applicants they want and educating our students on the exact skill sets needed for these fields.”

Texas is a leading manufacturing state. Petroleum and coal products, chemical products, and computer and electronic products manufacturing combined account for nearly two-thirds of the value produced by the state’s manufacturing sector, according to a December 2014 report from the Texas Comptroller's office.

This could be why after just one week of receiving a certificate in computer numerical control, more commonly known as CNC, Tin Nguyen received a job offer to produce oil valves with Samson Products, Inc. With his CNC certification, Nguyen is eligible to work in a variety of industries, but it is the oil and gas industry that pays the best, he said, and provides further on-the-job training.

His CNC instructor, Steve Falls, was able to contact local manufacturing representatives to recommend his students for hiring. Nguyen said he plans to take more certification courses to move into higher positions within the industry.

"I wanted a career change, and knew friends who took this course and received jobs," said Nguyen, who holds an associate degree in computer science. "It fully prepares you for work in machinery. The class has opened a brand new road for me, a new career."

Ushering more workers into the region's high demand industries is the main goal of many grants that San Jacinto College has received in recent years. This year, the College received a $9.3 million U.S. Department of Labor Ready to Work grant to focus on the workforce training needs of the petrochemical industry. The Texas Workforce Commission awarded a $55,000 Skills Development Fund Veterans and Industry Grant and a $72,145 Self Sufficiency Fund Oil and Gas Construction Project Grant to train for welders, pipefitters, and electricians.

“Help wanted signs are everywhere for welders, pipefitters, operators and others in the craft trades,” said Dr. JD Taliaferro, director of applied technologies and trades at San Jacinto College’s Continuing and Professional Development division. “People just need to know about what it takes to get into these positions. Many simply do not know that it can take less than a year or two to get to that $60,000 job.”

Current instrumentation student Jorge Figueroa is six months shy of graduating from his program. He received a Lubrizol scholarship last month to help him through his last semester. With help from his instrumentation instructor, Michael Duron, Figueroa is sending out his resumes and applying for an internship in January and is hopeful about landing job just like White.

“Recruiters have visited our classes and handed out their business cards,” said Figueroa. “When I talk with instrumentation technicians who are about to retire, they say people like me will be needed to fill those spots when they leave. I’ve applied for internships with Bayer and Calpine. I hope to get a call in January.”

About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit http://www.sanjac.edu, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.