Spotlight CPET


The new LyondellBasell Center for Petrochemical, Energy, & Technology (CPET) opened its doors to more than 2,800 students in fall 2019. These students—who can range in age from a 16-year-old dual-credit student to a 37-year-old non-traditional student, and beyond—all have access to the state-of-the-art, industry-leading training CPET provides.

“Our average student is 26 years old and will graduate in 2.3 years,” said Jim Griffin, associate vice chancellor/senior vice president of petrochemical, energy, and technology at San Jacinto College. “We are also looking at a retention rate of 92 percent, meaning if they start here, they finish here. The most exciting part is that our graduates’ employment rate is at 94 percent.”

Why such a high rate? Industry partnerships. From the planning stages to the implementation of the Center’s 35 custom labs and 19 classrooms, every part of the CPET process was influenced by industry.

“This building has been many years in the making,” Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer said. “It is a true collaborative effort between industry and higher education. Many of our industry partners served on our advisory council, steering committees, and sub teams to provide insight and expertise on everything from building design, curriculum programming, and safety culture to equipment and software recommendations. This facility has truly been designed by industry, for industry.”

These partners—including naming sponsor LyondellBasell—are offering not only their expertise to the advisory committee, but also equipment and the use of their instructors. Why is this important? Students learn how to use equipment from the people who designed it. 

Now that the Center is up and running, the College is implementing incumbent worker training. The goal for this training is to offer course packages to industry partners that train their employees to advance their skills in specific areas. San Jacinto College instructors, along with educational partners like Siemens, will lead the curriculum for each course. 

“Training can look like an eight-hour day split between process technology and instrumentation labs or a one-week boot camp for engineers,” said Clarissa Belbas, CPET director of resources. “We are going to offer a buffet of courses for companies to pick from, but it is up to them what they put on their plate.”

One of the first to enlist San Jacinto College’s incumbent worker training is BP, which will hold a one-day crash course in petrochemical operations early in 2020, using the Center’s labs.

As a training facility, the College ranks second for producing process operator associate degree graduates in the U.S. and just captured another win for the third year in a row for troubleshooting at the 2019 North American Process Technology Alliance (NAPTA) competition. 

“The need for a facility like this has never been greater,” Griffin said. “We’re seeing a growing industry that’s investing more than $60 billion in new capital locally. At the same time, our Baby Boomers are retiring and exiting the workforce, so the workforce needs are growing along with the job opportunities. This new facility expands the College’s capabilities to bridge that gap by developing and training the industry’s current and future workforce in a technologically advanced environment designed with industry input.”