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High-Tech Ties
BRCC’s Annual STEM Career Fair connects students, employers, technology

Baton Rouge Community College (BRCC) students enrolled in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) disciplines got a chance to review career possibilities at the college’s Second Annual STEM career fair, held this spring.


BRCC has hosted career fairs annually, but as the event has grown, the college began to hold career fairs for separate disciplines, attracting students such as Robert Pitre, in his second year of the college’s Process Technology (PTEC) program.


 “I like it,” Pitre commented about the career fair. “The variety of companies represented meet a lot of different interests, which I think is important.”


Pitre became interested in PTEC when he saw operators working at the same refinery he used to work in.  He feels the program has prepared him well for this moment.


“When I worked in construction at the refineries, I saw PTEC operators and I was curious about what they were doing.  Now, after having gone through the program, I’ve learned about everything I saw them do and more.”


Sandra Taylor, BRCC Assistant Director for Workforce Readiness and organizer of the event, explained that the career fairs are an important part of BRCC’s service to its students.


“We have to provide the link from student to employer,” she said.  “This is one of our ways to do that and give students the opportunity for direct interaction with potential employers.”


Such events also help students develop increasingly critical “soft skills,” Taylor pointed out, referencing a recent survey of the Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce taken in 2010 and reported on in The Baton Rouge Business Report. 


“For the first time, ‘soft-skills’ overtook technical knowledge as the traits most desired by employers in their workers,” she noted.


Ruel Seneca, Dow Louisiana Operations (LAO) Site Learning Focal Point, and Hayley Brown, Human Resources Partner for Georgia Gulf, agreed.  


“While we recognize that technical skills and knowledge are obviously necessary for new employees to succeed in our work environment, another critical component that individuals need to possess is a strong work ethic. Our preference is to have employees that exhibit behaviors such as arriving to work on time, the desire to learn, and adherence to policies and procedures.  We also emphasize the importance of having a solid foundation in interpersonal relations and social interaction,” Seneca said.


“It’s not uncommon to be working alongside your fellow employees for 12 hours a day, so it’s important to be able to interrelate,” Brown added.


Mel Eunice, a Dow Operations Social Coach, pointed out that soft-skills go beyond fostering a positive work environment.


“Possessing the necessary ‘soft-skills’ can be particularly important if you have an emergency or immediate-response event.  You and your co-workers have to be able to communicate with each other, trust each other, and respond in a coordinated and unified fashion,” he noted.


Tory Landry, BRCC Assistant Director for College Internships, said that the college’s Center for Career and Job Placement works to help develop students’ performance in those areas.


“We have a variety of educational resources to develop students’ soft-skills, and we also get valuable feedback from our industry partners in the field concerning our interns and graduates which we use to make them better, more competitive job applicants,” he explained.


But all the talk about soft-skills doesn’t mean that education has completely taken a back seat, stressed Anthony Brewer, DOW LAO Process Operator.  “Dow loves the best.  You have to make certain that you qualify for the technical demands of the job.  That means putting your heart and soul into not just doing it, but learning it.”


It’s a maxim that BRCC appears to be successfully passing on to its students.


“We can’t say enough about the college’s efforts this past year,” Seneca said.  “A high percentage of BRCC’s interns at Dow LAO were hired in the past nine months, and BRCC has worked very closely with us in incorporating our feedback into their educational process.”


That success was evident at Georgia Gulf’s display table:  Remi Nguyen, one of the company’s employees on hand to talk with BRCC students, is himself a graduate of BRCC’s PTEC program.  “I feel that it prepared me well for my current job,” he commented.


As for DOW LAO, it is even looking into developing an educational program for its incumbent workers based on its observations of BRCC graduates’ performance.


“One of the things we have been interested in is what employees bring to the organization from a formal-learning standpoint,” Seneca noted.  “We’re excited about the success that we’ve had in our collaboration with BRCC, and we feel that duplicating that success is something worth exploring.”


Published :Tuesday, Jun 07 2011