Lamar Institute of Technology students have a favorable job outlook this year. They are among the millions that employers are looking for to recruit into unfilled jobs in technology, allied health and the service industry.
“I’d probably have more luck at a midwestern school, but we have a high caliber of people working for us and I want to maintain that,” said Sharon Meier, business manager for Hurst Technical Services, Inc. “If the program is better I’m going to get better results, and Lamar is one of those schools.”
Hurst, based in Indiana, is seeking applicants from instrumentation programs. LIT has about 260 students in this program area.
Meier says that she is targeting Gulf Coast states, where technical schools are uniquely situated, since the demand for such skills is high due to the concentration of oil refineries and processing plants found there. Companies with a long tradition in Beaumont include ExxonMobil and Chevron, two of the world’s major oil and energy distributors.
Paul Szuch, LIT president, says that without partnerships with local petrolchemical companies and others, the college would not be the type of institution it is. “They help build some of our equipment needs, provide grants and training here.”
The training, Szuch says, is what makes LIT students ready for a global career since skills they learn are immediately transferable. The campus serves 4,000 for credit students and 3,000 non-credit students, and has a graduation completion rate of 23 percent. Technology program students take a few general courses including math and English and spend the majority of their time training in a specialized area.
In 24 years of hiring for employers in a number of states, Meier looks at a candidate’s education background first, rather than work experience. “They [technical college graduates] come out with better knowledge and understanding,” she said. “It’s a very niche skill set I’m looking for.”
Candidates who get the job will receive a competitive salary and full benefits. Instrumentation graduates can make between $25 and $35 an hour, and also work overtime to increase their earnings. In a year graduates can receive $75,000 to $100,000, in contrast to the earning potential of recent graduates from many four-year universities.
At a visit to Beaumont last August, State Senator Florence Shapiro told Lamar faculty that having an 80 to 85 percent job placement rate was something to be proud of, and that other schools should model themselves after LIT’s success.
Szuch believes that as companies seek qualified candidates and the federal government continues to give community colleges a nod, it is imperative to dispel the misconception that these institutions are “less than” a four-year university. He says the media, guidance counselors, and families need to do a better job of educating students about the benefit and necessity of receiving some type of post-secondary education that leads to employment.
Teddi Cherry, guidance counselor and department chair, advises 400 to 500 of the 2,200 students at Rockwall High School. She says that community colleges in the Dallas area, where Rockwall is located, have skyrocketed in attendance, and that she has no reservations about giving students their full options.
“Sometimes families didn’t go to community colleges, but now that they see the high costs of college and the jobs that are available with a community college degree, they are considering it.”
That is just what Szuch and employers like Hurst want to hear. “We have the benefit of preparing you for entry level skills and the four-year degree,” Szuch said.
“Here we can do both. For us that’s a good thing.”