Workforce Development is Key to Our Industry’s Vitality

I recently had the honor of surprising 10 San Jacinto (San Jac) College students by awarding each of them a $2,500 scholarship from LyondellBasell. The sincere shock on their faces when told their financial burdens had been relieved is a memory I will take with me long after my career. The opportunity to surprise these deserving students was exciting and opened the door for more reflection.

Our initial aim was to help these students advance in their Process Technology or Instrumentation Technology Associate Degree Program while they attend San Jac’s LyondellBasell Center for Petrochemical, Energy, & Technology (CPET). But what I realized is that this gift was beyond a mere $25,000. It was an investment in the future of our industry, where we face impending retirement of seasoned employees and a skills shortage among the generation of workers set to replace the retirees.

I personally don’t have to look very far to realize these projected workforce trends. I have a degree in chemical engineering and have been with LyondellBasell for more than 27 years working in various positions before my present one as senior vice president of manufacturing. My son is currently studying Instrumentation Technology at San Jac and is part of the generation that will need to possess a certain skillset to help fill the gap once someone like myself steps out of the workforce. Getting in front of these staffing challenges that lie ahead is mission-critical, and that’s why partnerships like the one our company has with San Jac are imperative.

At LyondellBasell, we are committed to educating and training our current and future workforce. Our company makes significant investments in job training programs at colleges and universities around the world. In fact, education is one of the three focus areas of our charitable giving program. Globally, since last year we’ve donated more than $2.8 million toward education initiatives.

Our 10-year partnership with San Jac involves a $5 million dollar investment into the college’s new LyondellBasell CPET facility. The center is well-positioned to be the training hub for our industry in the U.S., after opening in fall 2019, and will provide not only classroom training, but hands-on learning throughout the two-year associate degree program. CPET is a great example of industry leaders coming together beyond donations and financial support.

The wave of retirements and skillset shortage that will take place over the next few years is an industry issue that we will have to tackle together. It will take more than one partnership, more than one company and more than one donation to make a lasting impact. Additionally, it will call for new mindsets around recruiting, sourcing, development and retention, among other things. There is much to be done to develop the workforce of the future and our company has assumed the challenge because our industry depends on it.

A heart-felt congratulations to the 10 students who were awarded the scholarships. Thank you for allowing us to be part of your future. We can’t wait to see the successes that come with it.

Stay safe,

Mike VanDerSnick, Senior Vice President, Americas Manufacturing