(MARSHALL, Texas) – Aaron Sorenson, of Longview, credits representatives of Longview’s Eastman Chemical Co. visiting his high school in helping him choose his career path.
“I was at a point in my life where I did not know what the heck I was going to do,” said Sorenson, a Process Operations Technology student at Texas State Technical College’s Marshall campus.
He said he made the right choice by pursuing the program’s associate degree.
“It’s fun coming in here and learning how everything flows,” Sorenson said. “It’s challenging, and it keeps you on your toes and thinking.”
TSTC’s Process Operations Technology program teaches students about industrial processes, process technology, safety, troubleshooting and other topics.
Companies need more potential employees like Sorenson. According to Indeed.com, there are more than 300 chemical operator jobs and more than 2,000 plant operator jobs open now in Texas.
Texas had more than 6,700 chemical plant and systems operators as of May 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average base salary per year in Texas is more than $64,000, according to Indeed.com. Cities in the state with the highest pay include Houston, Beaumont, Deer Park, La Porte, Orange and Pasadena, according to Indeed.com.
“I try to encourage them and tell them while you are young and if you don’t have a family, take a chance and go somewhere else to work,” said Max Vinson, an instructor in TSTC’s Process Operations Technology program.
Dillan McNeely, of Union Grove, is scheduled to graduate in December with the program’s associate degree. He said his post-graduation options are open, from trying to get hired at Eastman Chemical Co. to working at other processing facilities.
“If you think of any product and trace it back, there is an operator,” he said.
McNeely came to the program after having studied at two-year colleges and working as a locksmith.
“The faculty are about your grades and success,” he said.
David Longoria, of Marshall, is scheduled to graduate in December with the program’s associate degree. He already attended a two-year college and studied sports nutrition, but saw more opportunities in process operations.
“They (the instructors) will do anything they can to help,” he said. “I like that they have experience already in the field.”
Longoria said he enjoys the hands-on work and looks forward to doing more of it somewhere in East Texas upon graduation.
“It’s crazy to see my maturity,” he said. “My path is clearer now.”
Longoria and Sorenson said hearing from program alumni already working in the field can go a long way in giving future and current students an idea of what to expect in the workplace.
Process Operations Technology is part of TSTC’s Money-Back Guarantee. Other eligible programs include Diesel Equipment Technology, Electrical Lineworker and Management Technology, Electrical Power and Controls, Industrial Systems, Instrumentation Technology, Precision Machining Technology, Robotics and Industrial Controls Technology, and Welding Technology. These programs were chosen because they are in high demand in Texas.
Students in their first semester are eligible to sign up for free with campus Career Services representatives. Students are able to take part in workshops to learn about resume writing, interview techniques, and other employment skills.
Students who are not hired in their field within six months after graduation will be eligible to get a tuition refund for their time at TSTC.
Registration continues for the fall semester at TSTC. For more information, go to tstc.edu.