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JOHN LYCAN — Local high schoolers who explore CTE open up industry career options

Why are high school and college students not pursuing jobs in the manufacturing industry?

What future jobs will be available within the petrochemical industry and what are the necessary qualifications to secure these positions?

These are two questions I will address in this month’s column.

For nearly 100 years, the petrochemical industry in Southeast Texas has employed thousands of local workers to safely operate and maintain its facilities.

The jobs of the past required a skilled set of steady hands, a strong back, a commitment to work ethic and employed generations of family members. All very important skills.

However, over the years the workplace has transitioned from the past assembly line style of manufacturing to the current digital and technology driven work platforms.

With that transition, hiring prospective talent also changed, and companies sought employees with specific knowledge and training, as well as job experience working in technologically advanced facilities.

Earning a high school diploma no longer ensures a student will secure a job in the manufacturing industry. Fortunately, to help prepare students for today’s workforce, many local high schools in our nearby communities provide Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs for students to earn advanced certifications while completing core high school requirements.

CTE programs, such as Process Technology, Construction Technology, Computer / Information Systems, Drafting & Design, etc., will allow students to learn specific knowledge and the skills necessary to pursue careers in the petrochemical and manufacturing industry.

A student can advance their education after high school or enter the workforce employing the skills learned in CTE programs.

BASF TOTAL Petrochemicals is proud to be a financial sponsor of multiple CTE programs in the community and serve as an advisor for program administrators.

How can you support?

Parents, grandparents, friends and educators are all influential in helping students choose and pursue a career path. Encourage students to explore CTE classes in high school to help determine if a career in the manufacturing industry is the right choice for them.

Students who pursue degrees in engineering can specialize in manufacturing, electrical systems and machine design careers. Computer science majors can become programmers for advanced and cutting-edge equipment.

Students who earn associate’s degrees in manufacturing and construction technology will ensure vital equipment that helps to produce essential products is working at optimal levels.

And students with high school diplomas can take jobs in manufacturing too – everything from properly maintaining production equipment to monitoring the proper use and storage of manufacturing materials and supplies.

The recent pandemic has called our attention to “essential” workforce and careers in the manufacturing industry are certainly essential.

Although some uncertainties must be considered, such as the overall growth of the economy and the recent downturn from the pandemic, the job outlook in manufacturing remains strong.

There is no doubt that there are “many seats at the table” for students and individuals that are prepared with the necessary skills and education necessary to secure the jobs.

To learn more visit studentresearchfoundation.org/blog/manufacturing-careers-today.

John Lycan is Vice President of Operations Port Arthur — Site General Manager for BASF TOTAL Petrochemicals. For more information, email carol.hebert@basf.com.