Lamar State College PA retrofits century-old National Guard building; ready to train next generation’s workforce

Published 12:28 am Sunday, April 16, 2023

The cavernous, near 100-year-old Army National Guard building at Lamar State College Port Arthur has a new look and purpose.

Combine that with the newly built adjacent building and you have the college’s Industrial Training Center.

The center will train tomorrow’s industrial workers, giving them hands-on experience from welding to pipefitting and more.

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Ben Stafford, dean of workforce and continuing education at LSCPA, explained the buildings are open for any industrial craft training the area needs.

“We will run training in in-demand occupations funded through Texas Workforce for the unemployed, and we will partner in training with local industry to run specialized training to meet specific workforce needs,” Stafford said. “When we partner with employers we can generally also bring training funds through the skills development fund or through the skills for small business grant.”

The classroom building

The newly built facility features three classrooms set for 24 students. But, if needed, a partition can be moved, opening up the room for more students.

Earlier this week, Valero operator trainees were utilizing two rooms with the third room set aside for Texas Department of Transportation classes.

Stafford said the rooms can fit 24 or as many as 110 students.

Currently there are 40 new Valero operators in Basic Operator Training. The course is for three months and is a partnership in training between the college and Valero.

Stafford said LSCPA has an interagency agreement with TxDOT and provides a wide variety of safety training for them. The college also provides new driver training and examinations for entry-level drivers.

The armory building

The armory building has weathered every hurricane that hit the area since 1924. It still maintains the original wood ceiling and is 33 feet high at the eaves and 36 feet at the center, Stafford said.

Inside is a 30-person welding lab allowing students to train in a booth.

“But before you go out let’s put you in a harness, let’s take you up 30 feet. Let’s see you weld like you’re going to weld. We’re going to set a fire watch. We’re going to call in a rigger because I’m going to run you up,” Stafford said. “Let’s see you weld like you’re going to weld in a refinery because if you’re going to lose your head, you’re going to lose your head around 30 feet. If you can go to 30 feet and stay competent, typically you can do more.”

The building also has a large space available for simulation. And as industry calls for concrete, rod busters, electricians or instrument fitters, a teacher will use that space for that purpose, he said.

The sheer size of the building has many perks in the world of industrial training.

Should there be a need for a scaffold, one can be constructed. A person would drive a forklift to the laydown yard, bring in the pieces and assemble a three-story scaffold right there, he said.

“Part of the Bechtel project is a two-and-a-half story structural iron building that simulates their LNG train and using both ways we could build a two-and-a-half story building, assemble and dismantle and put it back out in the layout yard,” he said.

Stafford also noted three munitions storage areas that the companies who are using the building for training can use to securely store equipment.

Le Short with Mason Construction LLC., Marcus Henslee with ISC Constructors and Bobbie Netterville with ABC Southeast Texas toured the facility with Stafford and were pleased with what they saw.

“I’m impressed. I’m very impressed. It’s good to know that besides ABC there’s an additional industrial training center in our backyard. That’s very important,” Netterville said.

The renovation of the armory into the new Industrial Training Facility cost more than $6 million. The project is a partnership between LSCPA and the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation with federal funding from the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development administration, he added.

People interested in the training can visit the college website.

A ribbon cutting for the Industrial Training Center is tentatively set for June 29.