Re-careering white-collar workers choose process technology

Posted on: August 13, 2012

When the financial bubble burst, Tony Langston, a finance worker with an M.B.A., knew what to do—create a spreadsheet of his alternatives.
 
He determined that although the banking industry was faltering, two fields were booming: energy and medicine. “The energy sector is going to grow. The world needs oil and chemicals,” hesaid.
 
After narrowing his options, he decided that he would most enjoy energy.

“I like working with my hands. Just because you have a graduate or white-collar degree doesn’t mean you can’t work with your hands,” he said.

His location also was ideal for a job in the energy field. “We’re right on the Gulf Coast. Texas City is really where energy started,” he said.
 
Energy companies look for process technicians to work in industrial plants. Langston began researching schools that offered the process technology associate degree, which is a common prerequisite to a job in the field.
 
“I created a spreadsheet and compared pluses and minuses of schools,” he said. He also looked at schools’ locations, teachers and industry connections. Based on his research, Langston chose to enroll in College of the Mainland’s Process Technology Program, which was the first school in the nation to offer a two-year process technology degree.
 
Langston is one of many students with a prior, unrelated degree to be attracted to the process technology field.

“I see a steady stream of students who return to school with a degree to seek a new career,” said Kim Davis, who works in the Process Technology Program at COM.

Often police officers and educators facing school budget cuts enroll in COM’s PTEC Program to pursue more secure, higher-paying jobs. Another student who is currently enrolled in the PTEC program formerly worked for NASA but decided to change careers after being laid off.
 
“When they find out the pay our graduates get, they are really drawn to this. Only working 16 days a month is a big draw too,” said Steve Wethington, COM industrial technology faculty.

Another attraction to the Process Technology Program is that it not only prepares students for a job but helps them find one. Companies alert COM to their job openings, and COM shares the information with students. COM also has internship arrangements with BP, LyondellBasell and Shell.
 
“85 percent of graduates in the Process Technology Program have jobs within six months,” said Wethington. Students find jobs not only in the energy industry locally but in Houston and other cities and states.

Langston looks forward to working in the energy industry after graduation.

“Life is like a book and there are different chapters. I’m starting another chapter,” he said. “The more education you have, the better it is.”


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