Stronger Industry Partnerships and Improving Student Access to Jobs

Submitted By: Amrit Ahluwalia, Managing Editor, The EvoLLLution
Program Contact: Dr. Allatia Harris, Vice Chancellor, Strategic Initiatives, Workforce Development, Community and Diversity
Phone: 281-459-7140

San Jacinto Community College

General Description

Workforce education requires strong partnerships to ensure that training is current, facilities are up‐to‐date, and learning experiences ready students for industry culture. The San Jacinto College LyondellBasell Center for Petrochemical, Energy, and Technology exemplifies an approach to building partnerships that has yielded results for students across multiple industry sectors.

Program Summary

When petrochemical companies began heavily reinvesting in the Gulf Coast region, San Jacinto College leadership saw the need to update facilities and improve workforce development programs. The question became: How does the College leverage this opportunity to improve student success and deepen partnerships with industry while building a facility that will benefit students, industry, and the community for years to come? San Jacinto College has trained petrochemical operators for over 50 years. When petrochemical investment in the region exceeded $35 billion and a qualified workforce became a key decision point for companies, the College knew it was time to build on existing programs, update curriculum and equipment, and expand partnership opportunities with industry. A teaching facility for industrial electrical, instrumentation, and process operations is expensive. Using tax dollars efficiently is a priority.

The chancellor established the Chancellor’s Petrochemical Advisory Council (CPAC) comprised of industry leaders and said, “Tell me the good, the bad, and the ugly about our programs.” The CPAC provided honest feedback for an expanded vision and program improvement, and she listened. Internal planning began in early 2014. When the bond passed with a 70% approval, the Chancellor immediately hired an industry consultant and convened the CPAC. Research and honest conversations revealed that students needed more hands‐on experiences and awareness of industry culture. Curriculum needed to better demonstrate the connection between theory and application with a greater focus on safety. Labs needed up‐to‐date software and examples of multiple generations of equipment.

From 2015‐2018, industry provided subject matter experts who donated thousands of hours to design labs, delve into curriculum, and recommend faculty learning experiences. In 2017, a recently retired industry leader was hired to lead the programs. Companies offered externships to faculty, increased tours, and expanded internships for students.

Because industry involvement expanded the vision, building costs increased, and fundraising became part of the work as well.  In August 2019, the San Jacinto College Lyondell Basell Center for Petrochemical, Energy, and Technology (CPET) opened to 2,900 students. Industry involvement began with 12 committed partners.