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Retiring Baby Boomers in Petrochemical Industry Produces a Shortage of Skilled Workers

Retiring Baby Boomers in Petrochemical Industry Produces a Shortage of Skilled Workers

According to researchers, in general, baby boomers have been the most educated demographic and the most skilled in the petrochemical industry. The skill set they have acquired include complex cognitive knowledge, abstract thinking, independent judgment, and intricate nonroutine manual skills. This workforce from the 1970s that built Houston’s “Petro-Metro,” however, is retiring in record numbe

 

Replacing this aging demographic with the existing labor pool is a large-scale challenge due to the shortage and the lack of senior-level experience. A consortium of the key players from industry, education, and policy makers has created a long-term strategy to supply the deficit of skilled workers to sustain the projected expansion of up to $52 billion in 2017.

One of the educational partners, San Jacinto College, has created specialized certificate and degree programs to meet this demand. The local college has increased its faculty with both full-time and part-time instructors in the STEM fields. Aggressive recruitment of students for these high paying jobs is starting to turn the tide but there is more ground to be gained.

Kevin Adams, program director of process technology, and Joseph Zwiercan, department chair of petrochemical/energy at San Jacinto College, think that the gap in retiring baby boomers and the shortage of available replacements combined with the projected expansion of the industry presents the perfect opportunity for Houstonians, especially Hispanic students in the East area of Houston. Those considering a career in the petrochemical industry should take notice that the field is wide open. “Recently math, chemistry, and physics have become a skill that industry looks at very closely,” said Adams. “Students need to be proficient in all those disciplines, and we are graduating 125 to 140 students per semester.”

 

According to Zwiercan, some of the median paying careers in petrochemical with greatest demand include, but are not limited to, process technology, pipe fitting, welding, millwright/machinist, electrical technicians, and instrumentation technology.

Miguel Hernandez, field execution supervisor at the Deer Park facility with Shell and a long-time expert in the petrochemical field, believes that Houston must develop the talent and skill needed for these careers or the jobs will go away to other countries that have the labor with the needed skill set. “Once they are gone, it will be very hard for those jobs to return. That is the reason why our industry continues to work very hard partnering with a variety of organizations throughout the Houston Metro Area to make sure we develop a talented workforce to deliver the manufacturing demands of the 21st century,” added Hernandez.

 

Hispanics make up the largest demographic that is pursuing a career in the petrochemical industry at San Jacinto College. Currently, 49.1 percent of the students for the fall of 2016 were Hispanics, 33.7 percent were Caucasian and 17.2 percent were other ethnicities. Due to the large concentration of Hispanics in Houston's East side, the future student ratios in STEM fields and the workforce rely on this growing segment of the population.

While the upstream field of the oil industry continues a slow recovery, the petrochemical sector continues to grow robustly. To keep up with demand, billions of dollars continue to be allocated for the expansion of existing facilities and new construction.

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, since 1961. As a fiscally sound institution, the College currently holds bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, respectively. San Jacinto College is a 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Top 10 finalist and an Achieving the Dream Leader College. Approximately 30,000 students each semester benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success. The College offers seven areas of study that prepare a diverse body of students to transfer to a four-year college or university or enter the workforce with the skills needed to support the growing industries along the Texas Gulf Coast. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

 

 

For more information about San Jacinto College, call 281-998-6150, visit sanjac.edu or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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