Ivy Tech Announces Partnership to Skill Up Workforce for Local Chemical Employers

Ivy Tech Community College and five local companies – SABIC, Valero, Green Plains, and CountryMark of Mount Vernon, IN, and Mead Johnson Nutrition, of Evansville – announced today a partnership designed to identify, train, and employ new workers for the companies, anchored by a $147,000 donation by SABIC, $20,000 from CountryMark, and $15,000  from Valero to the Ivy Tech Foundation. This partnership and funding will be used to purchase lab equipment for Ivy Tech’s newest offering in the School of Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering & Applied Science, as well as Advisory Board membership, and internship and scholarship opportunities.

On April 16, Ivy Tech’s Evansville Campus was approved to offer a Process Operations technical certificate. The credential will provide students the training to achieve initial qualifications and fundamental knowledge of the process industry that can lead to employment as process operators in a variety of fields like chemical, pharmaceutical, and petroleum refining industries.

“This partnership is providing a creative solution to address what is being called a ‘silver tsunami’ as many in the workforce are at, or nearing, retirement,” said Jonathan Weinzapfel, Evansville Campus Chancellor. “Students in this program will be prepared to enter the workforce in one year, and benefit from scholarships provided by the companies, as well as internship opportunities.

“Because of these retirements, these companies have a great need for trained process technicians to operate equipment in the production process,” he added. Weinzapfel lauded the foresight of SABIC, as they developed a plan of action to train individuals for the many open positions they will have in the coming months and years as long-time skilled employees retire. “This groundbreaking concept, will be a model many will follow to grow our employment base.”

Weinzapfel added that funding through NextLevel Jobs, an initiative through the Governor’s Office, may provide these courses free to qualifying students. Students must work with Ivy Tech’s Enrollment Center and Financial aid office to verify eligibility.

According to leaders in these companies, graduates will be readily employed at competitive starting salaries of $20 per hour or more. The program will provide a practical education in the various aspects of plant operations including environmental, health, and safety, equipment operation, process monitoring, troubleshooting procedures, regulatory compliance, and basic preventive maintenance.

SABIC, Valero, and CountryMark’s donations will provide the funding for Ivy Tech to upgrade their laboratory facilities to include new equipment, modern instrument trainers, and computer process simulators when classes begin this fall. Students studying for the Process Operations Technical Certificate will learn how to:

  1. Maintain safety, health, and environmental standards in a chemical plant.
  2. Handle, store, and transport chemical materials according to all applicable federal, state, and local regulations.
  3. Describe chemical process systems and operations.
  4. Operate, monitor, and control batch and continuous chemical processes.
  5. Apply mathematical and statistical concepts and principles to chemical process operations.
  6. Use computers and computerized equipment for communications and chemical process control.

Joe Castrale, general manager of SABIC’s Mt. Vernon facility said it was important to his company to be proactive and develop a plan to address the employment needs of his company before it hits and to reach out to similar companies to be a part of the process.

“SABIC’s Mount Vernon production employees possess a unique set of technical and critical thinking skills that take years to develop,” Castrale said. “With increasing retirements on the horizon, it is important now more than ever to address the workforce gaps in the petrochemical industry head on.

“The technical certificate program allows us to transfer that deep knowledge and train employees faster in order to continue operating our facility safely while competing in a global marketplace.”

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Ivy Tech Community College serves communities across Indiana, providing world-class education and driving economic transformation. It is the state’s largest public postsecondary institution and the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system. It serves as the state’s engine of workforce development, offering high-value degree programs and training that are aligned with the needs of its communities, along with courses and programs that transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association.