Rural Workforce Opportunity Symposium

Dream It. Do It. and Denise Smesny were invited to participate in Congressman Brian Babin’s Rural Workforce Opportunity Symposium on March 22nd at Warren High School. The goal of this event was to provide information to constituents and high school students to help broaden their horizons and educate them about the career opportunities available in the 36th district of Texas.

Junior and Senior students from home school groups and rural East Texas high schools including Warren, Buna, Chester, Deweyville, Colmesneil, and Woodville were treated to a general assembly featuring speakers from the health care, forestry, petrochemicals, manufacturing, and maritime industries. Afterward, students visited booths to find out additional information from businesses and educational institutions related to those careers.

The Dream It. Do It. booth hosted more than 220 students, teachers, administrators, parents, and community members at this event. The visitors learned about the PetrochemWorks website and how it could help them find out more about careers in the petrochemical and industrial construction industries. Participants also spun the “Don’t Be a Zombie” wheel to answer career-related questions and win prizes.

The invitation for this event was issued by Dr. Babin’s Deer Park office District Director, Kelly Waterman and Regional Director of Community Relations, Beverly Ferguson.

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Women in Manufacturing – Step Forward

Finding, retaining, and advancing women in manufacturing and related STEM fields remain a top priority for our nation’s employers. Manufacturing faces a serious skills gap and part of this gap comes from the under-representation of women in the industry. While women make up approximately 47 percent of the labor force, women only represent 27 percent of the manufacturing labor force.

Industry has an opportunity to mitigate the gap by encouraging and recruiting more women to join the ranks of manufacturing employees. BASF Corporation and The Manufacturing Institute sponsored the Step Forward event in conjunction with Manufacturing Day on October 7th at the University of Houston.

After a lunchtime Fishbowl discussion with early and mid-level career individuals seated with college students, the audience was treated to a Women in Industry panel moderated by Patricia Rossman, Chief Diversity Officer and HR Communications of BASF Corporation. Panelists for this session included Rebecca Fitzpatrick-Yancy, Manager Environmental Specialist of Covestro LLC, Dani Grant, Human Resources Manager of Noltex LLC, Lisa LaBean, Responsible Care Director of The Dow Chemical Company, and Justine Smith, Vice President, Oilfield Solutions of BASF Corporation.

The Best Practices panel, moderated by Jennifer McNelly, Executive Director of The Manufacturing Institute, was the final event of the day. Panelists included Glenn Johnson, Manufacturing Workforce Development Leader of BASF Corporation, Lanier Robertson, Head of Human Resources for Covestro LLC, and Katy Theroux, Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer of NCI Building Systems, Inc.

For more information about the Manufacturing Institute, see their

Alief ISD Ladies Learn about STEM Careers

What a great Manufacturing Day on October 7th! Approximately 65 Alief ISD female students participated in the National Association of Manufacturer’s Step Forward event at the University of Houston.

Alief students had the opportunity to tour the Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering Trailblazer, a one-of-a-kind science museum-on-wheels. Demonstrations included hands-on exhibits that taught students about energy, space, weather, biotechnology, and aerodynamics.

Students also took part in hands-on activities sponsored by various University of Houston engineering clubs and gained valuable knowledge of STEM careers related to the field of engineering.

A big thank-you to all of the BASF employees who helped with the event!

BASF Volunteers with Dream It. Do It. Southeast Texas

Thanks to the great BASF volunteers, Darren Rackley, Sam Brechtel, and Alton White, who helped staff the Dream It. Do It. booth at the Southeast Texas Career Youth Expo at the Ford Center in Beaumont on September 29th! You gentlemen did a fantastic job of engaging the students on the benefits of a career in the petrochemical industry! We spoke with 344 students, teachers, and counselors at that great event.

INEOS Career Day

INEOS Hosts Career Day for High School Students of the Boys and Girls Harbor


On August 4th, INEOS Battleground Manufacturing Complex (BMC) hosted a Career Day for the high school students of the Boys & Girls Harbor. The students and their counselors were invited to the site for a full day of activities which included presentations on career paths, and tours. Careers in engineering, management, human resources, finance, IT, procurement, safety, health, and environmental, operations, and skilled crafts were presented; and tours of a control room, a machine shop, and a state-of-the-art technology center were given.

High Demand for Blue-Collar Careers

Everyone is noticing the economy these days. Even the Houston Chronicle has taken note of the growth of the area’s highly-skilled labor force in spite of the economic downturn fueled by losses in the oil industry. “Houston’s economy may be slowing, and white collar workers in the energy industry are suffering, but the demand for blue-collar worker shows no sign of declining,” notes Chris Tomlinson in his commentary in the Business section of the city’s newspaper on Sunday, June 19, 2016.

This shift in the economy is at the forefront of the Economic Alliance Port Region. The Alliance, along with additional founding partners Neighborhood Centers and UpSkill Houston, has combined forces to charter Dream It. Do It. Southeast Texas. The mission of this foundation is to facilitate communication and action to build a skilled workforce in the southeast Texas Region. This foundation strives to be the regional answer to the nation-wide problem of a skilled workforce shortage by engaging students at key points in their career decision making process.

How does Dream It. Do It. accomplish this task? Working in collaborative partnerships with the East Harris County Manufacturers Association (EHCMA), UpSkill Houston, BASF, and INEOS, this non-profit organization takes its show on the road to help inform students, parents, teachers, and administrators on the type of high-need, high-wage opportunities available in the petrochemical, maritime, logistics and distribution, and construction industries located in the nine-county Gulf Coast area stretching from Jefferson to Matagorda counties. This year alone, Dream It. Do It. has reached more than 2,700 students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and others through presentations to community centers, educational convocations, career fairs, task force meetings, teacher staff development sessions, conference presentations, and classroom presentations.

“Our biggest job,” notes Project Manager Denise Smesny, “is to get the word out on various careers about which students and parents may not even be aware.” Presentations inform listeners about high-need, high-wage, highly-trained career opportunities in such fields as Process Technology, Pipe Fitting, Electrical Technology, Instrument and Analyzer Technology, Millwright, Crane Operations, and Welding Technology in industrial settings. In addition, presentations stress the type of education and certifications needed for these careers as well as the different training locations in the Gulf Coast area.  The highlight of the presentation is that men and women currently working in the petrochemical industry often speak to the audience letting them know the advantages of working in local petrochemical plants and related industries. Audience members seem to enjoy the one-on-one interaction with people from the “real world” of the local area workforce.

One recent presentation opportunity was a 6-day stint with 9th grade students enrolled in Alief ISD’s Career and Technical Education Early College High School in conjunction with Houston Community College. Students learned about high-need, high-wage, highly skilled career opportunities in the Gulf Coast area as well as area economic data showing trending occupations in the manufacturing sector. Students also experienced EHCMA’s, and participated in a “Manufacturing Challenge” to build a structure that could prevent an egg from cracking when dropped from waist height. After several rounds of competition, the winning team was awarded bragging rights as well as performing employability skills including teamwork, critical thinking, flexibility, and problem solving.

A new and exciting website is now online to help students, the underemployed, the unemployed, and veterans learn more about local petrochemical careers that fit their interests.  is sponsored by EHCMA, JPMorgan Chase, and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL). The website’s “Match Me” activity aligns user’s skills, interests, and personalities with real life job opportunities in the petrochemical industry. Included on the website are community college programs offering the necessary certifications and training as well as companies that are hiring these employees for high-paying petrochemical career opportunities. In addition, there is information available on the website that shows users how to obtain the education necessary to progress to higher paying, more demanding careers within the industry.

Dream It. Do It. has become the grassroots authority on influencing the perception of manufacturing careers by leveraging strategic partnerships to attract and recruit a qualified manufacturing workforce. The Chronicle’s Chris Tomlinson notes in his commentary that, “Parents and young people also need to recognize that learning a trade can reap greater career benefits than a four-year degree.” Dream It. Do It. is the organization that can help get the word out to students, parents, the underemployed, the unemployed, and veterans that the trades are open and business is booming.



Works Cited

Tomlinson, C. (2016, June 19). It will take a good bit of work to end the skilled labor shortage.

     The Houston Chronicle, Business, pp. B1-B4.