Dow-St. Charles Operations offering scholarship money

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 26, 2005

HAHNVILLE _ Dow believes the Process Technology (PTEC) scholarships it awards is more than just money for college – it’s a way to improve the quality of the local workforce.

The St. Charles Operations facility in Hahnville will provide up to two scholarships, not to exceed $3,000 each, to graduating high school seniors and mid-career adults in St. Charles Parish interested in pursuing an associate degree in PTEC. PTEC is the standardized curriculum for a two-year associate of applied science degree that prepares students to work as process technology operators in the Louisiana chemical and oil and gas refining industries. The scholarship application deadline is February 14, 2005.

Stanley Roy Dufrene, Community Relations Manager, said investing in local people just makes good business sense. He said the scholarships represent a significant step toward ensuring that prospective job candidates will have the skills and knowledge local manufacturing companies need. And local residents with PTEC degrees, Dufrene said, increase their chances of landing a job.

“We are an integral part of this community and we believe we cannot be successful unless our community is successful,” Dufrene said. “We’re investing in the people in our community to improve the workforce and to give them a better chance at having an opportunity for a great career. When you show respect for the interests, concerns and needs of the community you operate in, you are part of that community. It’s just what being a good neighbor is all about.”

Stacey Chiasson, executive director of Career Builders, said the scholarship program provides an opportunity to educate people about process operators do and the chemical industry is all about. She said people will not consider a career if they don’t have a clear idea of what it entails.

“Most people don’t know what goes on behind the gates of a chemical plant,” Chiasson said. “They don’t know the industry produces and processes the chemicals that are used to make plastic bags, the container their dishwashing liquid comes in, CDs they listen to, the tires on their cars and the parts on computers they use to surf the net. To get people excited about what the chemical industry does you have to make it relevant to their everyday lives.”

Chris Barrios, a 20-year-old resident of DesAllemands and 2004 graduate of Hahnville High School, could be the poster child for what happens when you make something relevant to a person’s life. A self-professed “gear head,” Barrios changed his plans to major in mechanical engineering at UNO after learning about the PTEC degree program at Louisiana Technical College – River Parishes and receiving a scholarship from Dow St. Charles Operations. He just finished his first semester by making straight A’s.

“I have never learned so much in a short amount of time in my life,” Barrios said. “This semester we learned about four-pass heat exchangers and the way we did that is by going outside and into the plant and working with them and seeing how the fluid flows through there and gives you a good exchange of heat. This is the best decision I have ever made in my life and I would be more than willing to share it with other people – I want people to know about PTEC.”

Chiasson said most people are unaware that operators make a starting salary of nearly $35,000 annually – some plants pay more – and up to $40,000 within 30 months after being hired.

The scholarship program is also part of an overall effort to award a worker shortage by the Louisiana Chemical Association (LCA) and Career Builders, an intermediary that brings business and education together to make what is taught in the classroom more relevant to students and their future careers. About half of all process technology operators are over age 50 and will retire soon. Because of the anticipated retirements, the chemical industry needs twice the number of students currently enrolled in PTEC degree programs to meet future workforce needs.

To obtain a copy of the 2004-2005 scholarship guidelines, eligibility requirements, application form and more information about PTEC, prospective scholarship applicants should call Career Builders at (866) PTEC101 or go to