Back in March 2019, Del Mar College (DMC) received one of the largest donations of direct funding from an individual company in the college’s history.

It was Gulf Coast Growth Ventures (GCGV), a joint venture between ExxonMobil and SABIC, that donated $1.5 million to Del Mar for the purchase of the most contemporary training equipment available in the new Gulf Coast Growth Ventures Process Technology Lab, housed in the Workforce Development Center, one of the most recently built facilities on the college’s Windward Campus.

The college said students will use the gift for generations to come as industry needs continue to expand for highly-skilled workers now and in the future. They said the donation is part of GCGV’s commitment to workforce development and enhanced quality of life in the area.

“We’re here to dedicate the Gulf Coast Growth Ventures Process Technology Lab, which is a new lab in a new facility, and what you’ll see is the result of an extremely effective partnership,” DMC President and CEO Mark Escamilla, Ph.D., said to campus and GCGV guests at the event. “You might say that the process technology lab is a win-win for Del Mar College and Gulf Coast Growth Ventures; but, there is ultimately one winner – Del Mar College students, who are utilizing this lab, pursuing careers and raising families. Their future is what this event is really about.”

Del Mar College’s board of regents Chair Carol A. Scott  said that the Gulf Coast Growth Ventures Process Technology Lab is a major advancement for workforce training in the Coastal Bend and the equipment is truly impressive.

“To offer this type of world-class equipment and training puts our vision and mission statements into action at Del Mar College,” she added.

“This is more than just a lab. It’s a significant career option for area residents who want to raise families and earn excellent salaries without relocating to another city, and we’re fortunate to have industry partners like Gulf Coast Growth Ventures who prioritize workforce development in the communities where they do business.”

GCGV built an ethylene production plant on a 1,300-acre tract of land in Gregory and is said to generate 600 permanent jobs with an average yearly salary of $90,000 once in full operation. According to current labor market data from Emsi (www.economicmodeling.com), the median salary in this region is $78,820 for petroleum pump system operators, refinery operators and gaugers.

GCGV’s donation funds covered equipment such as distillation, extraction and water treatment units and flow trainers, all  crucial for students’ hands-on experience with cutting-edge technology before joining industry.

“GCGV’s donation represents an investment in the future,” GCGV Site Manager Paul Fritsch said. “We are honored to invest in the careers and the families of the students who will graduate from this program.

“This is about the future of industry in the Coastal Bend, and providing for that future now by providing proper equipment, training and teaching all aligned with area workforce needs.”

Currently, DMC students from several programs train with equipment in the Gulf Coast Growth Ventures Process Technology, including process technology, industrial instrumentation, industrial machining, occupational safety and health, environmental/petrochemical lab technology and millwright.

During the dedication, two process technology majors spoke about the hands-on training they now access in the new lab. Both Process Technology Club President Alexis Gutierrez, 30, and Daniel Adams, 42, are making career changes and found the college’s program as their answer to entering the industry.

“Your contributions have provided an outstanding training facility that will enhance the education of future generations of students and help many, such as myself, reach important milestones,” Gutierrez said to GCGV representatives. “The Gulf Coast Growth Ventures Process Technology Lab introduces state-of-the-art equipment and technology that takes hands-on training and visual learning to a whole new level. 

“Many students, including myself, have benefitted greatly from this remarkable training facility that will continue to foster growth and learning for years to come.”

Gutierrez previously worked in the banking industry and is now a stay-at-home mom of two daughters. This fall, she is taking five credit courses while juggling family life and extracurricular activities.

Adams, who has worked in several disciplines over the years ––including medicine, research, horticulture and husbandry – and holds a master’s degree in biology, added that thanks to GCGV’s funding, “your future worker pool will be more educated and have a greater understanding of how processes actually work.

“Plants in San Patricio County, including the new Gulf Coast Growth Ventures project, will soon have a high-caliber work pool from which to choose their staff.”

Scholarships are also a vital part of getting more Coastal Bend residents into college and the workforce.

Since 2018, GCGV has donated $164,000 to support scholarships that address students’ financial challenges during their pursuit of the process technology field. Sixty-seven students have benefitted from this generosity.

In addition to direct gifts given to Del Mar College, GCGV also donated $100,000 to the San Patricio County Workforce Development Consortium in August 2018 in support of the college’s career and technical education programs at the county’s high schools. The consortium, formed in 2017, includes DMC and seven San Patricio County ISDs, and engages high school students in career and technical programs that precisely meet the needs of industry.

“You’ll see that these are large pieces of equipment that are custom engineered for the task at hand, and the hands-on training students gain with this equipment will give them the advanced skills and knowledge that industries are looking for,” DMC Executive Vice President and COO Lenora Keas said. “We know this because industry leaders have told us their employee candidates need more hands-on experience; so make no mistake, the training that students receive in this lab isn’t found anywhere else in this region.”

•pgonzales@mysoutex.com•

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