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Deer Park Internship Bridges School to Real-World

by Tracy Torma

Shell Deer Park's PTECH Internship provides invaluable experience for potential future operations workforce. Two graduates from Lee College in Baytown recently completed the internship and were converted into full-time hires.


The small glycol pilot unit at Lee College in Baytown helped teach Michael Ghossein the basics of process technology (PTECH), but an internship at Shell Deer Park during his final semester of school brought his studies to life.

“It definitely was an eye opener,” says Ghossein. “Probably the smallest piece of equipment at Shell is 10 times bigger than the pilot unit at the college.”

Providing students with real-life experience and easing them into the work world is the focus of Shell Deer Park’s PTECH internship program. It also helps Shell recruit some of the area’s top operator candidates from area community colleges to keep its operations talent pipeline flowing.

“We try to give them as much exposure to what we do out here so they can make a decision on whether this is something they want to do for a career,” says Mickey Pedeau, learning advisor and process technology coordinator at Shell Deer Park.

For Ghossein, it was the right career choice. He joined Shell a year ago and today is an operator at Deer Park’s Hydro Sulfur HP1 unit. “Hands down, the internship helped prepare me for a job in the real world,” Ghossein says.

Derrick Gates, another Lee College PTECH studies graduate, agrees. “You can learn a lot in a book, but when you get hands-on experience– and you can see everything you’ve been reading about – you start putting everything together,” says Gates. The Dayton, TX, resident was in Shell Deer Park’s second class of interns and went to work as an operator at the site in July 2011.

Six weeks and 180 hours

During the six-week program, interns spend 180 hours at the site shadowing operators at various operation units at the refinery and chemical plant. They observe workers and equipment, get exposure to the logistics side of moving product and complete a 40-page workbook detailing their experience.

Since Shell Deer Park’s PTECH internship program began in 2011 with five people, its success has skyrocketed. Last year, of the 100 operations employees hired by Shell Deer Park, 50 of those were from the internship program.  Shell Deer Park expects to hire another 20 PTECH interns this year.

“We’re looking for students who want to make Shell their career. We have a great place to work here and there are many opportunities for broad experience, from running a process unit to handling logistics,” says Pedneau, who began his career with Shell Deer Park 24 years ago as an operator.

Today as part of the Human Resources team, Pedneau helps recruit new employees from five area colleges, including Lee College, San Jacinto College, College of the Mainland, Alvin Community College and Houston Community College. Besides serving on college advisory boards to review and provide input for curriculum and courses, he attends career fairs, helps students prepare with mock job interviews and donates materials to the schools.

“Shell and others in the petrochemical industry rely on these schools to teach the skills we need in our future employees. The PTECH programs provide a good pathway for people who don’t have an industry background to earn a two-year degree and get an operations job that pays as well as any job that requires a four-year degree,” Pedneau notes. “And, we get employees who are ready to hit the ground running. It’s a great partnership for everyone,” he adds.

2013 Shell Deer Park PTECH Internship Program

Available positions for Shell Deer Park’s PTECH internship program will be posted on the company’s website at www.shell.com/careers this spring. The actual application process begins in April and internships start in June.

“The PTECH program at Lee College taught me all the basics and familiarized me with the equipment and a completely new language of the process industry,” says Ghossein. “The Shell internship helped me transition to a new career.”

“The southeast Texas area has a lot of refineries and two-year PTECH programs provide the path to long-term career possibilities,” Gates says.

“The Shell internship lets you walk beside the operators and see how they perform their daily duties so you learn on the job. Basically, you’re always learning here and I like that,” he adds.

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Shell Deer Park Refinery

Shell Deer Park is a 1,500-acre complex located in Deer Park, Texas, approximately 20 miles east of downtown Houston along the Houston Ship Channel. Founded in 1929, Shell Deer Park is now home to 1,700 employees who operate a fully integrated refinery and petrochemical facility 24 hours a day.