A Relationship with Great Chemistry: The Relationship between Community Colleges and the Process Technology Industry Is Working Very Well, and New Relationships Are Being Developed at the High School Level

Article excerpt

More than a decade ago, the United States Congress passed the Scientific and Advanced Technology Act, which authorized the Advanced Technological Education program (ATE). Through ATE, the National Science Foundation (NSF) was directed to develop models aimed at two-year colleges of advanced technological education in order to expand the nation's pool of skilled technicians and to increase and improve the nation's productivity and competitiveness globally in advanced technology fields--including chemical processing. But it is the mutually beneficial relationship between industry and educational institutions that has accelerated the evolution of process technology education.

There was good reason for the ATE program to direct the focus of the models to be aimed at two-year colleges. It recognized the flexibility and rapid response of two-year colleges in meeting the growing need for a technical workforce, and appreciated the ties these colleges have with local businesses in surrounding communities. Businesses in the Gulf Coast region, home to the largest complex of petrochemical industries in the nation, wasted no time in addressing the need to fill their own anticipated shortage of highly skilled process technicians that would result from baby-boomer retirements.

In 1993, a group of petrochemical industry representatives from the Texas City area came together to form a committee to discuss the education of "process operators." The committee explored increasing the courses in pre-hire education that would go beyond technical courses and expand general education. The committee decided that a two-year associate of applied science degree program was the answer. It was also decided that the term "process operator" would be replaced with "process technician," and "process technology" was adopted.

In 1994, after the committee took a long hard look at the petrochemical industry, visited area colleges, and most importantly, conducted job analyses of first-class operators, it took its findings along with a proposed curriculum to the State of Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, where the program and state guidelines for the new Process Technology program were approved.

During visits to and evaluations of area community colleges, the committee had discovered that each school was using a different curriculum that resulted in graduates with varying levels of skill and knowledge. The group needed to find a way to guarantee that all institutions were teaching the same curriculum. So, in 1996, the Gulf Coast Process Technology Alliance (GCPTA) was formed, and its first goal was to "standardize the core technical components of the degree program in process technology to meet industry needs."

GCPTA pioneered the way for other alliance partnerships such as the Louisiana LAPTEC Alliance, the Greater New Jersey Process Technology Alliance, the Oklahoma Partnership of Industry and Education Alliance and many more. And today, learning institutions and industry work together to produce highly skilled process technicians to secure the future of the chemical processing industry. This region of the country is now home to an exceptional group of schools offering the best in process technology education. A great chemistry is increasing.

Brazosport College

Brazosport College (BC) is located on the Texas Gulf Coast just a short drive south of Houston, and the chemical industry is an integral part of this area. But, many of these processing plants are now requiring an associate degree for entry-level positions. Brazosport College has an excellent Chemical Process Technology program, so this is the perfect venue for aspiring process technicians.

BC offers an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Chemical Technology with either a Process Operations or Laboratory Technician option. Studies in safety and environment, operations, troubleshooting, instrumentation, lab analysis, team skills and work ethic, quality and economics, computer skills, communications, and academics are part of the process technology curriculum. …


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