Through its work with San Jacinto College's career services, the LyondellBasell Center for Petrochemical, Energy, & Technology, or CPET, is now offering students innovative ways of connecting with industry partners through virtual mock interviews.
Jeff Pearce, coordinator for education and workforce at CPET, saw an increase in students wanting to know what to expect from an interview for a position in the oil and gas industry.
"In the past we've had representatives come from different companies and give talks to students about what they are looking for in a new hire," Pearce said. "With the onset of the pandemic, we weren't able to offer those opportunities anymore, and the idea for virtual mock interviews was born."
Pearce began working with Brittany Bonds, coordinator for career services at San Jac, on the logistics of pairing CPET students with industry partners.
"We started with doing interviews three days a week, and slots started to fill up quickly," Bonds said. "Career coordinators from the North, Central, and South Campuses are all involved to help facilitate each interview and offer real-time feedback to students."
The mock interviews take place much like a typical interview, with a panel of CPET, industry, and career services representatives. Students are given general informational and situational questions for 10-15 minutes, and then the attention turns to instant feedback.
"This has given me a phenomenal window into what someone on an interview panel for industry is looking for and how they analyze not only your answers but your communication skills as well," said Joshua Roussell, CPET student. "I've done four interviews so far, and I feel like with each one I've been able to take the advice and do better each time. That type of encouragement is invaluable."
Since the onset, representatives from Turner Industries, LyondellBasell, Arkema, Noltex LLC, Kaneka, W.R. Grace, INEOS, Performance Contractors, Olympus, and ChevronPhillips Chemical-Cedar Bayou have volunteered their time to help students hone their skills.
"These students are the folks who are driving the future of our industry. Anything we can do to help mentor them now and prepare them for the workforce the better," said Rick Brown, plant manager at Arkema. "It's been a lot of fun to work with them. They are taking it seriously and taking in all of the advice and feedback."
San Jac career services has resources for all students but has seen an uptick in CPET students reaching out independently for services from the office.
"I used to see one or two students a month come in the office for resume advice or interview tips, but now I'm seeing one or two CPET students a week, and they know me by name," said Bonds. "This industry is competitive, and if we can help students build their networks while they are still in school, that is a valuable tool for later."
Though the mock interviews started because of face-to-face restrictions, Pearce looks for them to continue in the future as a networking and skill-building resource.
"I'm proud of San Jacinto College for starting this initiative," said Carla Thompson, workforce development manager for Turner Industries. "We are building our future and the competencies and expectations that are set out for the industry. San Jac is taking the lead with this, and I'm proud to be a part of it."