Decision to make drastic career change paying off well for VC grad

Bianca Aleman’s life turned around in 2018 when she was chosen for Dow Chemical’s U.S. Apprenticeship Program.

Bianca Aleman knew few details about the job duties of a process operator in 2017 when a coworker told her about Victoria College’s apprenticeship partnership with Dow Chemical Company.

As a part of the apprenticeship program, Dow pays for students’ tuition and books while they work toward obtaining an Associate of Applied Science degree in process technology. The students also receive pay as employees of Dow during the apprenticeship.

“My coworker told me I could get paid while I go to school and work,” said Aleman, who was 25 years old at the time and working in retail and other jobs to make ends meet. “That sounded great. I ended up taking a look at it and went to apply during my lunch break.”

Aleman was one of 12 people chosen out of over 400 applicants for the apprenticeship program in 2018.

“The salary that one can make as a process operator really got me interested,” Aleman said. “I knew with my work ethic that nothing was impossible for me to do.”

Despite being a female in a male-dominated occupation, Aleman said she was not intimidated by the training and adjusting to a new career.

“I was fortunate enough to be in the apprenticeship program, so I was able to do a lot of hands-on stuff,” Aleman said. “I was able to correlate the things that I learned at VC with certain equipment on the job.”

As an apprentice, Aleman was grateful for encouragement she received from other women in the industry.

“We had some female instructors share their stories of working at the plants. That was really reassuring,” Aleman said. “I think a lot of females may not know about the job opportunities at these plants.”

Aleman’s typical day of work at Dow varies depending on the process and equipment.

“We work 12-hour, rotating shifts and in all weather conditions,” Aleman said. “We begin each shift by making equipment rounds and inspecting the equipment in our area. It’s important that we note any change we may find while taking readings. Our job is to keep our process running safely and efficiently and troubleshoot any problems that we may face. That could be anything from a leaking valve to a plugged pipe.”

Aleman, who has now worked at Dow for four years, is happy she took that step of faith to apply for the program.

“That was one of the best decisions of my life,” Aleman said. “I was working up to 80 hours a week before. Making a drastic career change like this could have been intimidating, but through the instruction I received at VC and the training on the job, everything worked out great.”

Victoria College’s Process Technology Program offers a one-year certificate and a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree in process technology. The program prepares students to work as a process technician or operator in a petrochemical plant, oil and gas refinery, water treatment plant or power plant. In the Golden Crescent region, process technicians and plant operators earn an average of $78,000 annually.

For more information on Dow’s United States Apprenticeship program, visit https://corporate.dow.com/en-us/careers/apprenticeships.html.

For more information on VC’s Process Technology Program, visit VictoriaCollege.edu/IndustrialTrades or call 361-573-3291.

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