Spotlight Petrochemical, Energy, and Technology

spotlight ken jacksonIf you ask a child in kindergarten what they want to be when they grow-up, some respond with, ‘firefighter’ or ‘school teacher’, but Ken Jackson took another approach. He knew what he did not want to be. “I remember riding the bus each day and passing by a chemical plant,” Jackson said. “I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it had a strong odor that I didn’t like. I swore I’d never work in a place like that. But now, I’ve been in the petrochemical field doing exactly that for more than 40 years.” During the course of his career, Jackson has worked as an operator, a trainer, consultant and now as a full-time professor in process technology. “After college, I was working in quality control when I saw an ad in the paper hiring operators at Sun Oil, now Sunoco,” Jackson said. Ken Jackson“I was drawn in the by the salary and that’s where I got my start in this industry.” Jackson, who holds a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in industrial management, joined San Jacinto College’s longest running program as an adjunct instructor in 1998. “I’ve seen our program evolve and enrollment has steadily increased, especially in the last five years,” Jackson said. “When I started in the field in the 1970s, you learned on the job through an apprenticeship program. Unfortunately, that meant training was inconsistent. With the degree program at San Jacinto College, instruction is consistent, and students learn material much faster than I did as an apprentice.” As much change as Jackson has seen in his career, one thing remains constant, his passion for education. “For me, the big reward is seeing the progress students make from their first day in the program through to graduation and working in the industry,” Jackson said. “I follow some of my students on social media and it’s satisfying to see them two or three years out of school in good jobs and living comfortably.” Contributing to the future success of San Jacinto College process technology graduates is the new Center for Petrochemical, Energy, and Technology opening fall 2019. Built for industry, by industry, the Center will feature an 8,000-square-foot exterior glycol process unit to develop troubleshooting skills for entry level, advanced credit students as well as incumbent workers.