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Shell Deer Park addresses Gulf Coast high school counselors
Speaking before an intimate group of high school counselors and administrators, Shell Deer Park employees Michelle Knight, Technology Manager, and Larry Riley, Refinery Production Supervisor, recently shared their insight and perspectives about the needs of the manufacturing industry at a 2011 Gulf Coast Tech Prep consortium.
Gulf Coast Tech Prep sponsors professional development programs throughout the region, and the purpose of this conference was to educate counselors on career trends, workforce challenges and other information to help their students prepare for college (both 2-year technical and 4-year academic degrees) and ultimately the working world.
As panelists for the Manufacturing sector, Knight and Riley covered several topics to explain the promising job opportunities in the energy industry and the types of people sought by large employers like Shell.
(From left to right, David Berrier, Deer Park CTE Director, Michelle Knight, Larry Riley)
Riley opened by recounting a personal story of how a twist of fate positively changed his career path from a laborer working for Dupont to the start of a 36-year career at Shell Deer Park; first as an operator and ultimately to his current position as supervisor for the refinery’s Cat Cracker unit overseeing a team of 79 employees.
Knight’s curiosity in engineering was initially sparked when, as a high school student, she learned the mechanics of a heat exchanger -- an interest which led her to pursue a Chemical Engineering degree, and later her MBA, from University of Houston.
A prevailing theme which emerged was the looming retirement of Baby Boomers and the resulting workforce gap – and massive opportunities – that will be generated.
Riley reinforced the notion that a certain level of misunderstanding exists about the nature of the refining business, even for those who live in close proximity to Shell. He observed that this is especially the case for young women who are largely unaware of the significant potential for them in the field. Riley advocated to the audience to do their part to expose and raise awareness of their students to the well-paid and rewarding careers available as an operator.
Knight added that engineering presents rich opportunities for students to learn cutting-edge technology and advanced design processes and to challenge themselves to use their intellect and tenacity to problem solve.
In addition to proficiency in math and science, she shared that as a manager, she said she looks for people “who have a natural curiosity to learn, are productive and demonstrate a strong work ethic, as well as maturity and the ability to work in a team.