The Houston region is home to over 5,000 energy related firms, according to information from Governor Greg Abbott’s office, and the state of Texas is home to the largest petrochemical cluster in the world that employs approximately 100,000 workers.
The oil, gas, and petrochemical industry is what literally fuels the Texas, and Houston area economies. So it only makes sense that the local higher education facilities would partner with these industries. It was this mindset that helped create the collaboration between Lone Star College and the University of Texas at Austin Engineering Executive Education, Petroleum Extension, made official on Sept. 26. University of Texas at Austin is one of four colleges in the state with petroleum refining and chemical products education program.
“Lone Star College is the preeminent workforce training institution in the greater Houston area,” said Stephen C. Head, LSC chancellor in a release. “We look forward to working with UT-PETEX in this new endeavor to help companies maintain a trained workforce.”
The relationship between LSC and UT-PETEX started long before last month. For over 10 years UT-PETEX, a unit of The Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, leased space on the LSC North Harris campus. But until recently that was the extent of the relationship.
“We said ‘Hello’ in the hallway, but there wasn’t any strategic plan as to what we did with the relationship,” said Linda Head, LSC senior associate vice chancellor division of external and employee relations and wife of Chancellor Steve Head.
For a while UT-PETEX moved to a new location and the leasing relationship stopped. But they’ve found their way back and the new collaboration was formed.
“We got connected to University of Texas PETEX again through the International Association of Drilling Contractors,” Head said. “They wanted us to collaborate on putting together programs at various levels for oil and gas field workers, and included a multitude of different occupational areas.”
About three years ago head connected with Eric Roe, executive director of Texas Engineering Executive Education, and together they decided to re-engage the partnership between their schools. While UT is again leasing space from LSC on the University Park campus, the new relationship goes deeper than that.
Now, energy employers can work with LSC and UT-PETEX to access the training their employees need at all skill levels.
The employee training will happen through Lone Star’s Corporate College. In recent years Chancellor Head has endeavored to build stronger relationships with the energy sector, to complement the relationships the school already has with the medical and health care sector, Linda Head said.
Head said the relationship between energy employers and the schools could benefit students from both LSC and UT as well who are seeking to end up in the energy field. While so much of life, education, and job searching is online, relationships like these help build the person-to-person connections that can make all the difference for students entering the workforce.
“This is, we feel, going to really start a deeper relationship with the deans and the leadership at the University of Texas that will filter down to help our students,” Head said.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics from June 2014, Montgomery County was home to 1,725 employees of the oil and gas industry. Just next door, Harris County was home to 49,638 employees of the oil and gas industry. “Among the 10 counties with the highest concentrations of oil and gas employment, 5 were in Texas,” according to BLS.