When students walk through the doors of the $70 million state-of-the-art learning facility, they get more than hands-on training and expert skill building. They get a taste of what working in the industry really looks like.
But that’s not all.
They also get the unique opportunity to learn about the technologies and inner workings of their future employers and make valuable connections with industry leaders. It’s the kind of connections that make a difference.
The LyondellBasell Center for Petrochemical, Energy & Technology (CPET) on the campus of San Jacinto College in Pasadena, TX was specifically designed “by industry for industry.” And now, it’s the site for the first annual Empowering Pumps & Industry Conference (#EPIC2022), an event dedicated to connecting the workforce with industry.
Register today for the Empowering Pumps & Industry Conference:
“The industry is ready for an event like this,” said Jim Griffin, Associate Vice Chancellor / Senior Vice President for the Petrochemical Training Division at San Jacinto College. “This is a relationship-oriented industry. We are always learning and re-tooling and re-building. It’s a curious industry, and we are thirsting for knowledge. We ask a lot of good questions, and this is the ideal environment for that kind of learning and growing.”
After serving as Vice President of Operations at Mitsubishi Chemical for more than 15 years, Griffin was hired in October 2017 to oversee the curriculum and instruction of the college’s petrochemical-related training programs, as well as the development of CPET, which officially began operations in 2019.
With their goals aligned, Griffin partnered with Empowering Pumps & Equipment Founder & CEO Charli K. Matthews to create a unique event designed to connect the best of the industry workforce with the pump and related equipment industries.
“We created EPIC after I visited this amazing state-of-the-art facility in Pasadena and saw the incredible hands-on training available for students,” Matthews said. “But what really got my attention is that they also allow manufacturers to come in and train, share knowledge, and recruit new employees. That’s when I realized that an event like this just makes sense. It’s a perfect opportunity for pump and equipment manufacturers, distributors, purchasers, end users, facility owners, and the most skilled young talent to come together and have intimate interactions and discuss the most important and critical industry topics.”
The focus of #EPIC2022 is the interactions and connections that are necessary for both the company and the employees to be successful. The event features two days of round-table discussions, group tours of the spectacular CPET facility and some of its 35 sophisticated training laboratories, outdoor exhibits, and break-out sessions about leadership, pump basics, sustainability, and other topics important to the pump industry. The event also features a Career Corner Networking Lounge where students can speak directly to potential industry employers.
“This is not your typical tradeshow,” Matthews said. “It’s a very special event that is specifically designed to connect the workforce directly with the industry. There will be fewer presentations and more intimate interactive discussions. The idea is to find out how we can work together, how we can train up the next generation, and to discover exactly what the future looks like for workforce and industry.”
While working together to plan the Nov. 14-15 event, Griffin said he was impressed with Matthews and her 15-person Advisory Board, made up of pump industry professionals, leaders, and influencers. Griffin and his CPET colleague Jeffrey Pearce joined the committee to offer the facility’s point of view.
“I was drawn to Charli’s character and charisma,” Griffin said. “We realized that we knew a lot of the same people in the industry. Most of our partners are well-known like Dow, Chevron, Exxon, Lyondell, Eaton, and Siemens. But we weren’t as connected as Charli was to the original equipment manufacturers in the pump industry. This was a great
opportunity to bring everyone together. This is a huge industry, but a small community of like-minded people who all want to see our industry grow. The EPIC team and Board are passionate, and it’s obvious that they are all doing this because it’s the right thing. They see the importance of connecting workforce and industry. We need more smart people like them asking the right questions and making a difference for our industry.”
Griffin and Matthews said that attendees will have the opportunity to see some new technologies, meet people in the industry who can support them and help them to be more successful. There will be plenty of opportunities to ask questions about the future and to think through creative strategies.
Some of the major goals for #EPIC2022 include:
- To spark creative ideas
- To have a good exchange of industry expertise and experience
- To make connections, create partnerships, and build relationships
- To share old and new technologies
- To discuss supply chain issues and solutions
- To recruit more students and manufacturers to participate in the mission
- To connect the workforce with industry
- To expand the mission
- To discuss ways to diversify the industry
“It will be interesting to see who shows up and the kinds of conversations that happen,” Griffin said. “This is not one and done—it is a foundational event. This facility is special. There is nothing like it anywhere in the world, and we are proud to be the location for this event and to show off our unique campus, one that encourages curiosity and learning.”
Closing the Manufacturing Skills Gap
For decades, the pump industry has struggled with the number of retiring skilled workers who are leaving the industry and taking their volumes of tribal knowledge and experience with them. Replacing that talent with a new generation of workers has not been easy.
Industry is struggling to fill the gaps and find talented people for highly-skilled jobs—and they are competing with other industries for that talent.
CPET is doing its part to help fill the gap.
“We believe this college is ‘Built by Industry for Industry,’” Griffin said. “Sometimes in academia, you can only see the academic side. But here, we only do things that the potential employer sees as valuable to their organization.”
In operation for three years, newer engineers and technicians come to the college to upgrade their skills. Students have opportunities to meet prospective employers. The employers become subject-matter experts and often attend the courses. CPET features “scouting weeks” where employers sit in on courses and provide valuable feedback to the instructors. Often, they become part-time adjunct professors.
“This is helpful for strengthening the workforce, because now the student gets to meet the employer,” Griffin explained. “They often participate in mock interviews to prepare the students for the interview process. They also review resumes through their company’s HR department to provide coaching and feedback. They also provide feedback to the instructors to ensure that it’s a real-world experience that is current and relevant to the most advanced technologies. They even help with lesson plans and bring in new technologies.”
The college offers five two-year associate degrees—Process Technology, Instrument Technology, Electrical Technology, Quality, and Health, Safety & Environment. Internships are available for students and externships are available for the professors, who can go into industry and get the real-world experience to bring back to the students.
“One of our mottos is ‘Every day is an interview,’” Griffin said. “On any given day, students will see a prospective employer. We make sure our curriculum and delivery meet the standards of what is happening in industry today. We had one employer who had 50 jobs to fill. They did all their interviews here. They provided us with feedback on the students, not only about their technical skills, but about their soft skills, as well. Not a day goes by where I don’t have the opportunity to talk to industry members about how we are doing. We get a daily scorecard.”
The facility simulates the factory environment through 35 highly sophisticated laboratories built by industry members like Lyondell, Exxon, Eaton, and Dow with the help of their suppliers. For example, Eaton has built five electrical labs on the campus. Siemens has built a few instrumentation and controls laboratories. The companies sponsor the individual laboratories, design them, set them up, train instructors, and bring in equipment for the students to use. The companies work together. In the Eaton lab, for example, there may be electrical engineers from Dow who are instructing and training.
What to Expect at #EPIC2022
Both Griffin and Matthews agree that the partnership between Empowering Pumps and CPET is a critical first step in connecting the workforce with industry.
“The students need to interact directly with industry,” Matthews said. “That’s how they grow. It helps them to build character and the skills to get the right job with the right companies. CPET is an environment that really sets up their students for success. You see the entire system at work at the facility. Those who don’t have the opportunity to actually walk through a plant floor can experience a version of what it looks like from the inside. The facility is created in a way that energizes the creative side of industry. It sparks the imagination to see how things work in such a real-world way. That’s why this is a perfect location for our event.”
The ultimate goal for #EPIC2022 is simple—to help the industry and the workforce come together and have conversations. The primary reason to have the event is for networking and establishing a renewed connection and excitement for the pump industry. It’s not industry or market specific, and people from all industries are welcome and encouraged to attend.
“We want people to get excited about industry,” Matthews said. “We want to show the opportunities for the workforce. We want to share ideas about recruiting and retaining talent and getting those people plugged into our industry. If the most skilled talent knows that these exciting jobs exist, then the pump industry can recruit the most talented workforce. And just think about how valuable a relationship with that company can be prior to a job interview.”
With many industry tradeshows and events to choose from, Matthews emphasized that the idea behind #EPIC2022 is to bring all the worlds together.
“The excitement that comes with these critical connections leads to innovation,” she said. “The magic happens when all of these like-minded people are in the same room discussing the important industry topics of the day and talking about what the future looks like.”
For more information about #EPIC2022, please follow this link and register today. https://www.empoweringindustry.com/