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    Partnership sends new generation into refinery construction

    LSCPA personnel and others standing in a large open room.
    Representatives from Lamar State College Port Arthur, Associated Builders and Contractors, Creative Corrections Education Foundation, Golden Pass LNG and several area construction contractors gather with students of the Refinery Construction Training Program at the ABC facilities in Nederland. The nine-week course prepares students to enter the construction trade, aiming specifically at refinery construction. Pictured, front from left, are student April Brown, LSCPA Dean of Workforce Dr. Ben Stafford, CEO of Creative Corrections Percy Pitzer, Vice President of Operations for Golden Pass John Fraser, Project Manager for Bo-Mac Russ Chandler, LSCPA President Dr. Betty Reynard, Local Content Manager for McDermott Ira McNeil, President of ABC Southeast Texas Kimberley Bernard, Director of Education at ABC SE Texas Horace Brown, Program Administrator for Creative Corrections Marsha Pitzer, students Lashonda Rudolph and Nicole Taylor, and certified NCCER carpentry instructor Carl Dennis; and, back from left, students John Jackson, Maranda Debine, Matthew Durgan, Jessica Bushnell, Wesley Davis, Chazz Simon, certified NCCER scaffolding instructor James Alexis, and students Johnathan Roberts, and Christopher Pitzer.


    WHAT: Refinery Construction Training Program through Lamar State College Port Arthur in partnership with Associated Builders and Contractors and Creative Corrections Education Foundation.

    WHERE: Students can sign up for the program online at Training takes place at ABC Southeast Texas in Nederland.

    WHEN: Classes take place Aug. 6-Oct. 4 or Sept. 24-Nov. 29. Classes are held Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    COSTS: These classes are grant funded through the Texas Workforce Commission and there is no cost to the student.  Students must register for the class and must interview for the program at the LSCPA office of the Dean of Workforce. Courtesy transportation to the training site in Nederland is offered each class day. A bus transports students from starting points at the Sam’s Club in Beaumont as well as the Carl Parker Center on the campus of LSCPA in Port Arthur.

    CONTACT: For more information, contact Amanda Metts in the LSCPA Workforce Training Office at 409-984-6230.
    “If you build it, they will come” is turning out to be more than just a bit of sage movie wisdom.

    Total Refinery announced two years ago that it would be building a $1.7 billion ethane steam cracker in Port Arthur. Immediately, a group of industrial-related partners realized that a local construction workforce must also be built.

    The resulting collaboration is the Construction Site Carpentry program, facilitated by Lamar State College Port Arthur. The class, which feeds its graduates into local refinery construction jobs, is offered at no cost to students.

    “Two years before Total announced plans for the construction of a $1.7 billion ethane steam cracker in Port Arthur, a team of professionals from Lamar State College Port Arthur, ABC Southeast Texas, Total, Golden Pass and Workforce Solutions Southeast Texas met to foresee and meet the workforce problems the project would face,” said Dr. Ben Stafford, Dean of Workforce for LSCPA.

    When McDermott was chosen as the general contractor, professionals from this organization joined the planning meetings, and when Bo-Mac was chosen as the foundation contractor, they too joined the team, Dr. Stafford explained.

    Together this team designed a curriculum that allows students to earn NCCER certificates in CORE, carpentry level 1, Construction Craft Laborer Level 1, and scaffolding level 1. Armed with this planning, LSCPA applied for funds through the Texas Workforce Commission and was awarded $184,855 in training funds. Training for the project began in January 2018. LSCPA reapplied for funding in April 2018 and was awarded an additional $177,520 to continue training through 2019.

    The Construction Site Carpentry program takes students through a certified curriculum that puts participants in a prime spot to be hired for the upcoming Total project, which is expected to be completed in 2020. Total estimates the project will create 1,500 jobs during peak engineering and construction activity.

    “I liked the idea that after a nine-week class, I would be farther ahead than most people who are looking for jobs in this area. Everything I’ve learned in this class is fantastic. I’ve already learned a lot more than I expected,” said Wesley Davis, a student from Beaumont. “Everything I take away from this program will make me more valuable as an employee. That’s a really important part of me taking care of my future.”

    The program is being funded by the Texas Workforce Commission for qualifying students and being taught at the Southeast Texas chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. in Nederland.

    “This partnership gives us an opportunity to train more people,” said Horace Brown, Director of Education at ABC. “We typically only have classes that we sponsor at night, so by going through Lamar State College Port Arthur, we are able to offer day classes. That allows us to help people we wouldn’t ordinarily be introduced to.”

    The partnership also includes Creative Corrections Education Foundation, an organization that offers second chances to those who are seeking to get their careers on the right path.

    “This is a foundation created to deal with the unemployed, to help them get skills that make them a viable job candidate in the region. This is a second-chance program for those who come to us for help,” said Percy Pitzer, president of CCEF. “It helps the person, it helps the community. This allows those in our program a chance to become self-supporting, tax-paying, law-abiding citizens. This is just a bundle of benefits for everyone involved.”

    Those involved in the training of a viable workforce are excited at the opportunity to expand the local skill base. But those who will benefit, the contractors and hiring agencies, are especially interested in seeing this program succeed to its fullest extent.

    “We’re trying to get our LNG (liquid natural gas) export project going and obviously a big piece of that is having the personnel to do the construction work,” said John Fraser, Vice President of Golden Pass LNG. “This is a busy spot in the world and we’re working with the local trying to figure out ways we can help ourselves but at the same time help the area. It’s a win-win situation.”

    Said Ira McNeil of McDermott, a contractor company, “We have a responsibility to hire local workforce and with programs like Lamar State College Port Arthur has, it makes sure we’re going to be training people and sending them into the talent pipeline. Not only do we take advantage of the trained work pool in Southeast Texas but we encourage our sub-contractors to do the same.”

    Russ Chandler, project manager for Bo-Mac Contractors, explained that not only is local training a benefit to the individual worker but also for companies undertaking these large-scale projects.

    “A lot of times on these bigger projects, you get a demand for skilled labor but you don’t necessarily have a local supply. You’re pulling resources from Corpus Christi and Houston and Louisiana and that costs money,” Chandler said. “When you have programs like this where you can find skilled workers, you get to keep that money local and it’s an overall better economic impact for our area.”

    Christopher Pitzer, the nephew of CCEF’s Percy Pitzer, is a student in the construction program, having moved from Wisconsin for what he considered a great opportunity in a wide-open job market.

    “I’m almost finished with the program,” Christopher said. “When kids are young, they think about a lot of things as far as their future is concerned. When I learned about this program, it just seemed to fit. This is a starting spot for me. Once I get the training this program offers and the experience of actually being in the field, really there’s no limit to what I can do.”