EDITORIAL: Lamar PA’s focus includes expanded workforce options

Published 12:18 am Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The weekend news brought this to your attention: Lamar State College Port Arthur is expanding its toolbox for preparing our workforce.

In fact, the two-year public school on Procter Street has done that for 110 years, preparing our workforce, since entrepreneur John W. “Bet-a-Million” Gates organized what was known in 1909 as the Port Arthur Business College. Gates himself, an Illinois native and graduate of Northwest College at Naperville, Illinois, knew the value of job training. At Northwest, Gates took a course, five months in duration, in bookkeeping, penmanship and business law. It was enough to get him started.

In turns, he sought fortune in the hardware business and then as a barbed-wire salesman. He built his own barbed-wire company, found success in the steel, railroad, ice, hotel and oil businesses — among other pursuits. He was ruthless in his business dealings but single-minded about job-oriented education, and invested $60,000 from his own pocket for the business college.

That college is the state’s property now, but its mission of educating Greater Port Arthur people has not wavered. Most recently, Lamar Port Arthur announced its addition of a specialization certificate in its associate’s program. The school will start teaching classes for students in the Liquefied Natural Gas Manufacturing Advanced Technical Certificate program.

Sheila Guillot, LSCPA department chair of business and industrial technology, said the certificate program will include five courses, including three on LNG, and some hands-on experience. Hands-on experience, she said, would involve operations work in an LNG plant and information about transfer of materials to a ship or railcar.

Here’s why it matters, most imminently: Port Arthur LNG, an affiliate of Sempra, was scheduled to provide an “open house” for this community Tuesday evening at the Bob Bowers Civic Center, 3401 Cultural Center Drive. There, the discussion would include Port Arthur LNG’s approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to weigh expansion of its plant, planned for near Sabine Pass, from two to four liquefaction trains. Before two trains are built, two more may be planned.

In fact, Guillot in explaining the certificate program cited work in preparing workforce for Golden Pass — eventually, Port Arthur LNG’s likely neighbor — as an export facility for LNG. Right across the pond, along Cameron Parish’s shoreline, rests Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass LNG Terminal, with trains 1-6.

Investment in our community is occurring at breakneck speed — at least “breakneck” for the energy industry — and Lamar State College is doing admirable work in preparing our workforce for it.

The campus differs from what Gates and others may have envisioned more than a century ago. But it still serves to prepare workers for the energy industry — and so much more — as he and others had planned from the outset.