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Hallsville ISD unveils new process technology unit at high school

By Bridget Ortigo
Sept. 24, 2015 at 4 a.m.

Eastman Chemical Company representatives join Hallsville ISD Career and Technical Education Director Kathy Gaw and Process Technology instructor Scott Sandvik as they cut the ribbon for the Career and Technical Education department's new process technology training unit Wednesday at Hallsville High School.

Hallsville High School became the only high school in East Texas on Wednesday to offer students hands on process technology experience with the unveiling of its new process technology training unit.

"This has been a labor of love," Hallsville ISD Career and Technology Education Director Kathy Gaw said. "We began working on this project six years ago, before this building even opened. With this training unit, we can bring quality process technology training to Hallsville ISD."

Gaw said the district's CTE (Career and Technology Education) program is about preparing every student for the next step beyond high school, whether that be college or the workforce.

"We believe every student that leaves our program should be ready to enter either the job market or the post-secondary education level."

The district's process technology training program came about as a partnership between Kilgore College and East Texas manufacturing companies such as Eastman Chemical Company and Enbridge.

"We had Kilgore College talking to us about the instructional piece and our business and industry groups talking to us about that real world experience," Gaw said. "Our students will know exactly what it takes to go into this field."

A purple ribbon was cut from the machine on Wednesday during a ceremony that included state Rep. Chris Paddie, Harrison County Commissioner James Greer, Kilgore College President Bill Holda and Eastman Chemical Company representative Mike Tucker.

"We have 76 students go through our courses that culminate in manufacturing," Hallsville ISD instructor Scott Sandvik said. "We have seven of those students enrolled in the dual credit courses through Kilgore College."

Dual credit courses allow high school students to earn college credit hours while taking their high school courses through a partnership with an area college or university.

"Eastman helped us build this equipment and it safely operates with water and is environmentally friendly," Sandvik said. "Our students will now have safe, authentic process technology experience."

Tucker said Eastman is not the only company that hires process technicians.

"Any type of manufacturing company will hire a process technician," Tucker said. "We have about 600 of them and our workforce is aging. We hired about 50 process operators this year. We are talking about high paying careers."

The potential salary was one incentive for Hallsville High School senior Jered Kerby to sign up for the dual credit courses.

"I have an interest in engineering and process technology," Jered said. "I like that you can impact people's lives around you through this field. I took the classes because you can think of something and then build and design it and impact the future - and the pay doesn't hurt."

Jered said Tucker told students that an apprentice can start out with a salary of about $56,000 a year.

"This is exactly what we (the legislature) had in mind a couple of sessions ago when we came up with House Bill 5," Paddie said. "We finally realized not every high school student would graduate and go to college so let's give them the tools to be successful because public education is for every child."

Paddie said the dual credit opportunity is key.

"The partnerships between higher education, the market and our ISDs is what we had in mind with House Bill 5," Paddie said.

Gaw said she has spoken to other CTE directors across the state and they've asked her, "How do you get something like this done?"

"I tell them it's because we are Hallsville," Gaw said. "We are blessed with community representatives and business partners that want to help."

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