Few would deny that the future health of the Michigan economy depends on the skills and abilities of tomorrow's workforce.
That fact is the rationale behind a program initiated by Dow Corning and Dow Chemical Corporations to introduce high school and college students to the advanced skills they need for careers in the chemical industry.
Beginning this fall, the Chemical Technologies Professional Education Partnership (PREP) will offer both coursework and job training to students, allowing them to begin a career in chemical manufacturing or providing them with a foundation for further education.
The PREP program was launched in conjunction with Saginaw Public Schools, the Saginaw Career Complex, and Delta College, and any high school junior or senior in Saginaw, Bay, or Midland County may participate.
Tremendous opportunity awaits students who are interested in chemical manufacturing, according to Mike Warren, Dow Corning's Midland-area learning and development manager.
"The chemical industry is facing a very real need for qualified chemical process operators," says Warren. "This program will create between students and our industry a direct link that did not exist in the past."
About 30 percent of the current chemical operators likely will retire in the next five years, creating job openings that could pay over $60,000 a year, according to Warren.
After establishing the PREP program in late 1999, each partner participated in the development of the curriculum. The partners also invested about $1 million in new facilities and equipment.
Courses include applied chemistry and physics, computers, plant science, process equipment, and safety and regulatory procedures. PREP also will train students to succeed in a professional environment, placing emphasis upon interviewing and interpersonal relationship skills.
The PREP program will allow students to become process operators in a variety of industries, including chemical manufacturing, power generation, water treatment, food processing, and pulp and paper. High school students can earn 12 or more credits toward a certificate and associate degree in Delta College's Chemical Process Technology program, which requires a total of 64.6 credits.
PREP "gives students a running start on a career or college degree," says Julie Walker, principal of the Saginaw Career Complex, which hosts the program. As the site of a new chemical-processing laboratory, the Career Complex will provide students with a hands-on introduction to chemical manufacturing.
PREP is part of the Career Complex's "school-to-careers" effort, which provides high school students with an applied curriculum in a variety of fields, ranging from arts and communication to business technology to health services. As part of the city of Saginaw school district, the Complex prepares students for college, advanced technical training, and skilled entry-level work.
For more information concerning the Chemical Technologies PREP program, contact Scott Seeburger of Dow Corning at (989) 496-4078 or Mike Manley of Saginaw Public Schools at (989) 759-2230. For more information concerning the Saginaw Career Complex, contact Julie Walker at (989) 797-4836.