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Students introduced to technical career tracks at exposition

Jan. 31, 2015 at midnight
Updated Jan. 31, 2015 at 6:53 p.m.

Colter Davis, 14, smiles as he tries to control the water levels on a set of distillation towers during the Formosa Plastics presentation at the Dream Big STEM Expo on Jan. 8 at Victoria College.

Colter Davis, 14, smiles as he tries to control the water levels on a set of distillation towers during the Formosa Plastics presentation at the Dream Big STEM Expo on Jan. 8 at Victoria College.   Angeli Wright for The Victoria Advocate

Almost 1,200 eighth-grade students attended the Victoria Business and Education Coalition's Dream Big Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Career and College Expo.

Students from various area private and public schools who heard speakers from industry giants, such as Dow Chemical Company, Alcoa and Invista, talk about career opportunities in process technology, instrumentation and electrical, engineering, health and medical, information technology and welding.

"I plan on keeping my grades up as much as I can," said Makayla Anderson, 13, said. "It's either Dow or the health industry for me."

Vincent Garza, a student at Cade Middle School, said while the prospect of earning more at a plant seemed like a good bargain, he'd rather attend a four-year, traditional college and earn the degrees necessary to become an architect.

"I'm going to be working this summer," Vincent, 14, said. "I'm going to start saving up, so I can pay for school."

Mark Schroller, a program trainer and hiring manager for Dow Chemical's new apprenticeship program, gave presentations to students as part of the expo.

"It's a win-win for Dow, and the students because we'll be paying for their tuition," Schroller said.

There is a serious need to fill the skills gap in the workforce all over the country, the trainer said.

Students will work part time and go to school part time during the fall and winter and work full time the during the summer.

"They will have the hands-on experience, which will make them better employees," Schroller. "We see that when they're working hands."

Teamwork is the company's most valuable attribute, Schroller said.

"We set up a process technology years ago to hire people but the problem with that was the sudden downturn in the economy," Schroller said.

A partnership with Victoria College will help Dow Chemical's apprenticeship program sustain itself, Schroller said.

"Whoever those two candidates are, they'll be really lucky," Schroller said. "They'll be getting holidays and vacation."

Schroller said he started working with the company since he was a student at Victoria College more than 30 years ago.

"My dad worked for Dow for 40 years," said Schroller, who gets six six weeks of vacation. "I applied at Dow, which was Union Carbide then, and made a career out of it."


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