Career Signing Day Wins Major Award for Helping Students
Find Careers in Industry
BCPC Signing Day Committee Accepts Award at CURT Conference
Greg Sizemore, Executive Vice President at CURT; Jim Ellis, President at CURT; and BCPC Career Signing Day Committee Members: Jessie Jennings, Executive Director at Brazosport ISD Education Foundation; Spencer Cole, Sr. Talent Acquisition Advisor at BASF, Wendy Irwin, Community Relations Liaison at Chevron Phillips Chemical; and Aaron Ennis, Brazosport ISD Resource Development Coordinator
The Brazoria County Petrochemical Council (BCPC) Career Signing Day was awarded the Workforce Development Award by the Construction Users Roundtable (CURT), an international recognition for extraordinary, exemplary, and innovative training and education programs that encourages individuals to pursue a career in the construction industry and/or enhance individuals construction skills. Additionally, BCPC Career Signing Day won the top award of $5,000 jointly sponsored by CURT, the National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER), and Ironworker Management Progressive Actions Cooperative Trust (IMPACT).
Created four years ago, the BCPC Career Signing Day has “signed” over 80 high school students into craft careers. Modeled after athletic signing days, Career Signing Day is an occasion for graduating high school seniors to be placed in full-time roles for work and on-the-job training. It connects the career and technology curriculum at local high schools to life-sustaining careers in the industry.
“This award is a reflection of everyone’s hard work and dedication to growing our future workforce,” said Aaron Ennis, Chair of the BCPC Workforce Development Committee and Brazosport ISD Resource Development Coordinator. “None of this would be possible without the collaboration of the people at owner companies, construction companies, school districts, and community colleges.”
CURT is an association of leading corporations in the United States and Canada dedicated to promoting
cost-effective construction methods. CURT members recognize that training, education, and recruitment are essential to excellence in construction project delivery. As a result, CURT founded the Workforce Development Awards to recognize companies and organizations for extraordinary, exemplary, and innovative recruitment, training, and education programs, encouraging people to pursue construction careers.
The BCPC Career Signing Day application will be open for high school seniors in January 2023 and closes on March 3. Interviews will be on April 5 with May 1 being the 5th annual BCPC Career Signing Day.
BCPC Signing Day Discussed on The Michael Berry Show
The Trade School Affect
On July 1, 2022 the BCPC Signing Day event was a topic of conversation on The Michael Berry Show. Berry’s commentary begins around the 15 minute mark. The recording should start to play at that time.
Berry was named among the Top 25 Talk Hosts in America by NewsMax Magazine, and has been ranked with the country’s top 10 talk hosts by iHateTheMedia.com. His program can be heard on KTRH-AM. Click the media below to listen. Berry’s commentary begins around the 15 minute mark.
Modeled after athlete letter of intent commitment letters, ‘Career Signing Day’ is an occasion for graduating high school seniors to be placed in full time roles for work, on the job training and classroom instruction that often leads to professional certification.
The members of the BCPC are Air Liquide, Ascend Performance Materials, BASF, Braskem, ChampionX, Chevron-Phillips Chemical, Dow, DSM, Freeport LNG Development, Huntsman, INEOS, K-Bin, Linde, Lyondell-Bassell, MEGlobal, Mineral Research and Development, Olin, Phillips 66, Port of Freeport, Shin Etsu Chemicals, Shintech, SI Group, and Vencorex.
There is a shortage of skilled labor for industry in Brazoria County. The demand for certified pipe-fitters, welders, machinists, mechanics, boilermakers, and other skilled persons exceed availability. These craft persons help build and later run the petrochemical plants currently in place, under construction, or planned in Brazoria County. “We need the help,” Witte said. “Career Signing Day is one of the ways we can ensure sufficient access to skilled labor. We also like that the signees are from the area and share a commitment to it.”
Not Only a Local Issue According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 8 million skilled-labor jobs were lost from the labor force during the Covid-19 pandemic. About half were filled, but approximately 4 million vacancies remain. National Association of Workforce Boards President Ron Painter said the so-called “Great Resignation” was fueled by tradesmen who chose early retirement, work from home, or less labor-intensive jobs.
About the BCPC The Brazoria County Petrochemical Council (BCPC) organization is composed of chemical, petrochemical companies and other organizations that manufacture, refine, convert, store, and/or transport energy, basic chemical, or specialty chemical products. The goal of the BCPC is to enhance the well-being of the member company employees, contract employees, their families, and neighbors, here in Brazoria County. The BCPC motto is: Earn the publics’ trust every day.
Signing Day, when soon-to-be high school graduates pledge to attend a particular college or university, has always been considered a special occasion.
Now students who commit to a career in the skilled trades are being celebrated, too.
Brazoria County, Texas, high schools had a record turnout for this year’s Career Signing Day. Michael Martinez wanted to be an airline pilot. But as he got older, Martinez, now 18, decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a professional welder instead. In fact, the senior at Brazoswood High School in Clute, Texas, has already landed a job that will start immediately after graduation. “My dad always wanted me to be in the white-collar class,” he said, but “he’s proud of me.”
In Texas, where Martinez lives, there are a growing number of industrial job openings but fewer people to fill them.
These seniors from Brazoria County, Texas high schools committed to full-time jobs on Career Signing Day, 2022. Photo: Billy Loveless, Brazosport College.
Part of the labor shortage is due to experienced workers aging out of the field, according to Chris Witte, a senior vice president and site leader for BASF, a chemical company in Freeport, Texas.
“We want to grow the talent pool and we want to give students opportunities,” Witte said. “The goal is to show them that these are very good, high-paying jobs.”
To encourage more students to consider careers in the field, Martinez’s school district hosts an annual Career Signing Day.
“This Career Signing Day came out of nowhere,” Martinez said. “I thought I might as well try it.”
More people are accustomed to the fanfare that surrounds signing days, when soon-to-be high school graduates pledge to attend a particular university.
For college-bound athletes headed to big-name schools, these occasions are particularly celebrated among friends, family and the community at large.
Now, school districts are throwing their support and praise behind high schoolers who make a similar commitment to a skilled trade.
“Just as we would celebrate a football player or any other athlete, we want to celebrate just as proudly our skilled tradesmen and women and their decision to pursue a career,” said Chelle Travis, executive director at SkillsUSA, a national nonprofit aimed at connecting students with technical careers.
Michael Martinez on Career Signing Day, 2022. Source: Harold Nicoll
“What they do is essential work.” This spring, more than 1,000 students across 33 states took part in Career Signing Day.
In Brazoria County, just south of Houston, 48 graduating seniors, including Martinez, signed for full-time jobs at one of the chemical and petrochemical companies that make up the Brazoria County Petrochemical Council.
This was Brazoria County’s fourth annual Career Signing Day and by far its most popular. More than twice as many students applied and were hired into full-time positions than last year.
“The response has been phenomenal,” said Aaron Ennis, a committee chair and resource development coordinator for the Brazosport Independent School District.
Adrianna Webster on Career Signing Day, 2022. Source: Harold Nicoll.
“We are on the cusp of being one of the largest signing days up and down the Gulf Coast,” he added. “That’s our goal.” To be considered, students must submit written applications, including an essay, and interview with hiring managers. “We need to know that these applicants are serious about their commitment because they can potentially last an entire career,” Ennis said.
“It is a rigorous process because these jobs represent a substantial investment by the contract and BCPC member companies,” he added, which now includes 25 employers, such as Chevron-Phillips Chemical, Dow, Huntsman and Vencorex.
“I was excited and scared because there were four girls that were [applying] and I wasn’t sure if all, or any, of us would get a job offer,” said Angleton High School senior Adrianna Webster.
Webster, 18, was one of the students offered a full-time position at KCG Industries as a welder, earning $16 an hour. “Nobody in my family has gone to college,” she said. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do; I thought welding looked interesting and I was good at it.”
She starts in July, after competing in a national welding competition (Webster is a Texas state welding champion). Increasingly, teenagers are rethinking the value of college.
Amid the heightened demand for workers, rising cost of tuition and growing student loan burden, more students are choosing career-connected pathways over four-year colleges, according to recent reports.
As enrollment falls, skilled trade programs are booming.The likelihood of attending a four-year school sank 20% in the last two years — down to 51%, from 71%, according to ECMC Group, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit. ECMC Group polled more than 5,300 high school students five times since February 2020.
Meanwhile, more than one-third of high school students said they believed a career and technical educationcould lead them to success. “Today’s students have experienced the pandemic’s impact, and they want to forge their own path — a path that is shorter in duration, more affordable and connects directly to a career — especially a career in a field that needs workers,” said Jeremy Wheaton, ECMC Group’s president and CEO.
A separate study by YouthTruth, which polled more than 22,000 students in the class of 2022, found that more than one-quarter, or 28%, of high school seniors said their plans have changed since the start of the pandemic with fewer students interested in going to college at all.
Four dozen Brazoria County high school seniors will walk from the graduation stage this month to a job site after accepting job offers from Brazoria County Petrochemical Council member companies.
The number of hires, spread across 18 companies, was the most in the four years of Career Signing Day, which took place Monday night at Associated Builders and Contractors in Freeport.
The offers for the students to step immediately into a trade followed the BCPC’s interview day April 21, during which each student could speak with four participating companies.
“About 70 students were interviewed and we had about 25 companies that came on board to interview with us, so we did over 280 interviews,” Brazosport ISD CTE Director Jessie Jennings said. “These students are here tonight to be recognized for their hard work and input that they’ve done these last four years. We’re so proud of each and every one of these students and we’re so grateful to the industry representatives.”
ICS Inc. hired the most students for the second year in a row, with seven agreeing to start their careers at the company.
“I’ve been involved with it since the start, and so we try to make sure we try to get as many of them as we can,” ICS General Manager Ray Lopez said. “They have to keep the position. We give them the job, but they have to work at it. This is helpful because there are not enough people. We hired seven people. It’s going to teach them about life because they’ve been sheltered. This gives them a different outlook. It will teach them a lot about life.”
Using the BCPC program and taking advantage of the growth of Career and Technical Education education in public schools benefits both the student and company, said Aaron Ennis, resource development director for Brazosport ISD who also serves as workforce development chairman for the BCPC.
“One thing I want to point out is that it couldn’t be done without the backbone of our community — contractors and all of the organizations that are willing to hire, train and educate the students,” he said. “With CTE, I believe it’s starting to hit the mainstream where our companies are starting to recognize that as a recruiting field for the future talent.”
Two of the new ICS hires were Angleton High School students Miguel Mendez and Andrew Lanzas.
“This is the greatest opportunity ever,” Lanzas said. “I’m glad I got the job offer. It’s amazing we get to start off this early with jobs this good. Also thinking about college, of course; that’s a big thing. I’m going to go bigger and make more money. That’s the goal.”
The BCPC Completes One Million Dollar College Lab Donation. As a part of its ongoing commitment to the area’s workforce development, members of th
e Brazoria County Petrochemical Council recently completed their pledge to donate $1 million to the Welding Technologies Lab at Brazosport College. It is now officially known as the Brazoria County Petrochemical Council Welding Lab.
The donation to the BCPC Welding Technologies Lab, and support of local industry partners, has spawned new momentum for training and certification in the petrochemical trades. Brazosport College and the members of the BCPC are engaged in collaborative efforts to enhance the pipeline of students with dual credit classes, career and technology centers, plus other collaborative efforts, including the Veterans Career and Resource Fair, Signing Day and the Women in Industry Conference.
“Our members want to help develop and recruit local residents for lifelong careers in the petrochemical industry,” said Chris Witte, BASF senior vice president and chairman of the BCPC’s Workforce Development Committee. “These are positions with excellent pay and benefits that can support families, allow them to stay in the area, or take their skills to other parts of the country.”