MARIETTA - The Washington County Career Center Adult Technical Training program provides training for careers in the chemical industry.
The program offers training for operator, mechanical and electrical maintenance and lab technician training for individuals seeking employment and to upgrade skills for employees.
Last year, the Career Center received an Ohio Skills Bank grant to work with several chemical companies to create an Industrial Lab Technician training program in the Chemical Technician program.
A local company has made the program mandatory for employment as a lab technician. More than 40 percent of the students in the class are from local chemical companies.
At the beginning of 2012, the Career Center received a $1.1 million grant to provide on-the-job training, classroom training and internships for the chemical industry. The grant, administered by the Ohio Board of Regents, provides services to the chemical companies at a rapid pace. Since March 1, 32 people and six chemical companies have received grant training funds.
Jobs in the chemical industry require in-depth training. The jobs are complicated and require problem solving and troubleshooting skills.
The grants off-set the training costs incurred by chemical companies. Funds also help individuals train for new careers in the industry.
Josh Clegg recently completed the Chemical Operator program in Sardis, Ohio. Clegg was willing to relocate and accepted a position with Ashland Specialty Ingredients in Columbus.
"This class really changed my life," Clegg said. "The instructors know what they are teaching because they are from the industry."
The in-house training program at Ashland will continue for about five years and Clegg, if successful, will earn $32 per hour.
"The training I get on-the-job is very in-depth and when I complete my training, I will be making great wages I even got a raise after four months on the job," Clegg said.
Ashland Specialty Ingredients also is pleased with the level of skills and quality of education Adult Technical Training graduates receive.
"The cooperation between Ashland and the Career Center continues to be a very good one," Phil Popovec, site director at Ashland Specialty Ingredients, said. "The candidates who graduate from the class are well prepared to handle the complexity of our operation. There are rewarding career opportunities in the high tech field of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Manufacturing."
Another recent graduate, Kyle Thompson has secured a chemical operator position at Kraton Polymers in Belpre.
"This course and the instructors are really something. All of the instructors are from industry so you learn what you need to know to do the work. With instruction in operations, maintenance and industrial lab technician, I know more about the functions of an operator," Thompson said.
Kraton Polymers also has a detailed, long-term training plan for all new hires. The progression to top rate takes a while at most chemical companies, but the life-long income potential is significant.
"My job is awesome and I feel very lucky to have this opportunity, the class helped change my life and I don't think I would have got this job without it," Thompson said.
The instructors for the operator, lab technician and mechanical and electrical maintenance are all "been there, done that" folks. The instructors have a wealth of knowledge, experience and skills in their subject areas.
Instructors are employees from local companies including the Dupont Washington Works, Momentive Performance Products in Friendly, W.Va., SABIC in Washington, W.Va. and Degussa/Orion in Belpre.
Tom Callihan retired from the Washington Works plant and is one of the Chemical Operator program instructors. He worked at Dupont for 30 years and 11 of the years were in supervision where he helped train operators on the job.
Callihan's experience has evolved as industry changes with more computerized and technical production processes and enjoys passing on his knowledge to the students so they can be successful operators.
"All of the Chemical Operator instructors are the hands-on guys, we have done the work and we have trained people on the job. We know what students need to learn to be good at their jobs," Callihan said.
Darrell Veyon is the Training Coordinator at Momentive Performance Products and also teaches a class in the Chemical Operator program.
"A company who hires a graduate of the Career Center Adult Technical Training's Chemical Operator program will have an employee with a strong foundation. Their site specific training typically reduces the cost of long training programs and places operators in the workforce more quickly," Veyon said.
In the mechanical and electrical maintenance area, companies struggle to find appropriate candidates for open positions. The larger chemical companies hire employees who have worked in maintenance in the smaller companies.
The wages in the larger companies are more than $30 per hour and the wage at the smaller companies is $15 to $20 per hour. The smaller companies struggle to find skilled workers for their jobs when the current employees are accepting jobs with the larger companies.
Brian McFarland is completing the Instrumentation and Electricity program and Maintenance Mechanic Millwright program. McFarland is working at Magnum Magnetics in Caldwell as a paid maintenance intern.
The Career Center pays the wages during the training period and, upon successful completion, McFarland's salary will be covered by a grant contract for on-the-job training at Magnum Magnetics. When skilled, he will be hired as a full-time employee.
McFarland chose to take the classes after completing high school to learn a skill that could provide life-long employment.
"The folks at the Career Center Adult Technical Training office told me and my family everything I would need to do to be successful before I even started the classes. Since I had no related experience, I need to pay attention and learn on-the- job as part of completing my training," McFarland said.
In 2010, several Instrumentation and Electricity and Maintenance Mechanic Millwright graduates tested, qualified and were hired as Level 3 technicians at one of the larger area chemical companies. With no related work experience, the individuals tested on the same levels as those with from five to 15 years of experience.
The courses were designed by experts from local companies and the individuals continually work with staff to change the courses as technology dictates. The Instrumentation and Electricity and Maintenance Mechanic Millwright labs have more than $2 million worth of hands-on training equipment selected or donated by local industry.
For more information, contact Jim Siegfried at 1-800-648-3695.