Skilled labor is a precious commodity in Southeast Texas, the hub of a petrochemical industry that is driving huge job growth for workers like welders and pipefitters.

The rolling headlines for facilities expansions all along the Gulf Coast means job creation in those trades is only ramping up, as long as there are enough trained applicants.

For Mike Roebuck, chief executive of Echo Maintenance, an industrial general contractor based in Port Arthur, TX, the need for skilled workers is a trend on his mind.

“You’re really thankful for the people you have who are dedicated to your company,” he said.

Roebuck employs up to 2,000 workers across eight companies that offer pipe and steel fabrication, scaffolding installation, and maintenance and inspection services for the petrochemical industry.

ExxonMobil is currently expanding its refining and chemical manufacturing operations in the area and continues to explore opportunities for additional growth. Because of such examples, the industry will need double the number of currently available workers in fields like welding and pipe fitting to complete ongoing and future projects.

Paul Latiolais is the director for the Center for Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship (CICE) at Lamar University in nearby Beaumont.

He oversees a program that began last year to train residents interested in industrial construction. Specifically, Latiolais’s workforce program helps students find entry-level positions in the trades, such as welders’ assistants.

The 10-week program, which is supported by ExxonMobil, has already graduated 406 people – a trend that will continue to make a big impact for the industry and the community.

“If you can help someone get a job, that changes the community forever,” Latiolais said.


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