Business and education leaders discuss increasing employment in industries
04.04.2014 | By Jeannie Peng-Armao
(left to right) Dennis Winkler, chief operating officer of Winkler Public Relations; Steve Skarke, senior vice president and operation and site leader for Kaneka Corporation; Gordie Keenan, vice president of training with Higman Marine; Don Empfield, general manager for Zachry Industrial, Inc.; and Katrina Lambrecht, vice president of institutional strategic initiatives with the Office of the President at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Photo credit: Jeannie Peng-Armao, San Jacinto College marketing, public relations, and government affairs department.
PASADENA, Texas – Representatives from business and education recently met to discuss preparing more for careers in the industries of maritime, manufacturing, oil and gas, and health care.
The Business and Education Workforce Symposium – Houston Port Region, held at San Jacinto College, featured overviews on House Bill 5 and regional industry workforce needs, and panel discussions between business representatives and education administrators. Sen. Sylvia Garcia (TX-6), Rep. John Davis (TX-129), Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna (TX-143), Rep. Joe Deshotel (TX-22), and La Porte Councilman Mike Morsteit were in attendance along with representatives from the offices of Mr. Joe Strauss, speaker of the house; the House Committee on Public Education; Sen. Larry Taylor (TX-11); Sen. John Whitmire (TX-15); Rep. Carol Alvarado (TX-145); Rep. Greg Bonnen (TX-24), and Houston Council Member Dave Martin. They were joined by more than 150 leaders from local community colleges, universities, independent school districts (ISD), and industry.
"The word has got to get out," said Gordie Keenan, vice president of training with Higman Marine. "We have to have workers come in with good writing and math skills and who are extremely responsible. We need people who can make critical decisions." Keenan served on the business and industry panel alongside Steve Skarke, senior vice president and operation and site leader for Kaneka Corporation; Don Empfield, general manager for Zachry Industrial, Inc.; and Katrina Lambrecht, vice president of institutional strategic initiatives with the Office of the President at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
Higher levels of education, mechanical aptitude, communication skills, and clean background checks are just some of the requirements employers mentioned seeking when interviewing applicants for careers in process technology, maritime, welding, electrical, pipefitting, instrumentation, analyzer technology, and more. Dr. Kirk Lewis, superintendent of Pasadena ISD, said House Bill 5 gives students, who are thinking about careers in these high demand industries, the options needed to train for what employers need.
"One graduation plan does not fit all students," said Dr. Lewis. "Our job is to make sure we're producing graduates who can follow any career path they choose to follow. We appreciate the conversation with industry to make that happen." Dr. Lewis served on the education panel alongside Dr. Brenda Hellyer, chancellor of San Jacinto College; Dr. Dennis Brown, president of Lee College; Dr. Pam Wells, executive director of Region 4 Service Center; and Courtney Arbour, deputy director of contracts and operations with the Texas Workforce Commission.
Dr. Hellyer added that working directly with industry partners keeps college program curriculum current and at the highest of standards to ensure student success within the workforce.
"Industry tells us what to build into our curriculum, and they tell us the gaps," said Dr. Hellyer.
Chad Burke, president and CEO of the Economic Alliance Houston Port Region, provided symposium attendees with a regional workforce needs overview. Todd Webster, former chief deputy commissioner and consultant for Texas Star Alliance, provided an overview of House Bill 5. The symposium concluded with Dr. Allatia Harris, vice chancellor of strategic initiatives with San Jacinto College, leading a table talk on identifying gaps in skills training and workforce needs.
To view presentations from Tuesday’s symposium, visit www.sanjac.edu/workforce-symposium.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. The Achieving the Dream Leader College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of 30,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career preparation. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $630 million each year to the Texas workforce. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.