Pittsburg Team Supports Community College Programs

Dow employees who recently welcomed Los Medanos College students to the Pittsburg, Calif., site included Kevin Murray, center, and Jeff Noyer, to his right. Officials from the college included William Cruz, far left, Ana Castro, far right, and Dr. A’Kilah Moore.

Helping students prepare themselves for STEM careers is a team effort at Dow’s facility in Pittsburg, Calif. Fred Burmann is part of the team. Burmann, a senior instrument technologist, worked with nearby Los Medanos College (LMC) to develop an Electrical and Instrumental Technology (ETEC) program at the school in 2005. “It bothered me that we didn’t have a program locally,” Burmann said. The ETEC curriculum allows students to gain job certifications and earn associate degrees in electrical technology or instrument technology. The first classes began at LMC in 2006, followed by a similar program for Process Technology (PTEC) certifications. Now the community college is one of 43 in the country, and the only one in northern California, to offer ETEC and PTEC programs.

Burmann is one of six Dow employees who support the ETEC and PTEC programs at LMC. Another is Scott Sechler, a project engineer for Dow who’s been part of the PTEC program since its beginning. To date, he’s taught more than 500 students.

“This curriculum helps open doors to solid, well-paying careers as process technicians,” Sechler said. “It’s very rewarding to know that my efforts help position students for a potential higher standard of living.” In addition to passing their knowledge on to students, Dow employees host tours of the Pittsburg site as part of the program.

Elizabeth Knazs, quality coordinator for Dow, oversees the internship program for LMC students. Knazs sets ambitious goals for the interns and hopes they will be hired full-time. As an additional motivator, all graduates of the PTEC program are guaranteed an interview with Dow.

For Casey Pierce, a 2012 LMC graduate and now a Dow operations technician, the PTEC program provided an opportunity for growth in a stalled career as a contractor. During his two-year coursework, he interned for Dow and was quickly hired full-time after graduating.

“PTEC is essential for anyone going into operations to understand how different processes work,” Pierce said. Now when students tour his plant, Pierce can share with them the value of the LMC programs from his own personal experience.