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Marshall EDC makes a new investment in TSTC

The Marshall Economic Development Corporation (Marshall EDC) has invested $48,750 for Texas State Technical College (TSTC) to purchase process operations virtual reality (VR) simulator software with online instruction.


This software will serve the Process Operations program at the TSTC Marshall campus. The software system, called Distillation VR, is provided by PetroSkills Simulation Solutions. The venture was unanimously approved by the Marshall EDC Board of Directors Feb. 20 as a method to maintain and recruit new personnel working in the process operations field. Final agreement between Marshall EDC, TSTC, and PetroSkills Simulation Solutions was completed on May 1.


Process operations skills are in high demand in Harrison County, our regional laborshed, and across the United States”, said Donna Maisel, CEcD, Executive Director of Marshall EDC. “Manufacturing facilities seek to recruit new talent to replace retiring baby boomers and maximize their local operations for new expansions. The training software is also an excellent business retention tool and will be utilized as an enticement for new industries to locate in Marshall and Harrison County. Marshall EDC’s strong partnership with TSTC continues to be a vital asset to our regional workforce and industries.”


Bart Day, Provost of TSTC’s Marshall campus, concurred with Maisel and added, “There are terrific high paying opportunities for our students and new high school graduates are in a great position to take advantage of those opportunities in East Texas, even right here in Marshall. These careers require specific skills and those skills require specialized training. Our instructors are seasoned industry experts and are always eager to train those who have the desire to learn. Leading area companies like Eastman, International Paper, Pilgrim’s Pride, Dow Chemical, and Exxon Mobil come to us to help fill their workforce needs and we’re continually working hard to help fill those needs.”


What is process operations?


A lawyer, doctor, teacher, and nurse are all highly identifiable jobs that are well assimilated into popular culture and common knowledge. Process operations, on the other hand, is less known and more behind the scenes. Process operations is essentially the mass production method to safely produce a wide range of products in a standardized, efficient manner.



Many industries need employees with process operations skills, such as the chemical, food and beverage, oil exploration and production, pharmaceuticals, power generation, pulp and paper, refining, and wastewater treatment companies. Students learn about engineering mechanics, electronics, statistical process control, analysis, safety, communication, and working in teams.


Distillation VR Software


The Distillation VR Software allows students to receive hands-on experience with a simulated process plant. Students have the ability to startup the column, manage product flows through different process control elements, and work on optimizing product yields and purities.


This same Distillation simulator is used to train incumbent operators at refineries and chemical plants in the US and abroad.


Instructors alter simulator conditions so trainees can monitor and react to real world issues and follow industry standard procedures. Process production systems setup may vary; however, students receive hands-on skills for proper operation, troubleshooting, and safety that can be applied to any process unit.


“The purchase of the Distillation VR software couldn’t have come at a more critical time,” said the TSTC Process Operations Technology Lead Instructor, Dr. Nicholas Cram, PhD, MEng, CHSP, regarding the COVID-19 distancing restrictions and safety precautions. “Despite shutdowns in other types of businesses, companies in our area and across the State of Texas still require a talent pool of employees with specific process operation skills. One of our goals is to be the primary provider of skilled process operators in the region and this program helps us get there.”


Shortly after delivery and installation Dr. Cram observed, “Our training sessions with Matt Garvey, the PetroSkills Simulation Solution Instructor, really opened our eyes and our minds as to what a great educational tool the software brings to the table.”


The new Distillation VR process operations software is currently being installed with ongoing staff training. TSTC will begin using the programs this summer. Currently 59 students are enrolled in the summer program for Process Operations with 25-35 new students expected in the fall term.


Labor and Wages


Approximately 230 existing employees are active in occupations requiring process operations skills in Harrison County, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2018. Within the regional laborshed, identified as a 45-minute drive of Marshall, there are 1,350 employees engaged in the same.


Within Harrison County, the average annual salary of individuals with these skills is $63,200, being 36% greater than the average all occupations together in Harrison County at $46,600.


The median salary of $62,400 for process operator was 70% greater than the median for all occupations together at $36,600 for Harrison County.


With the exception of water and wastewater treatment operators, which have a lower salary range of approximately $25,000 to $50,000, it is possible for process operators to achieve salaries between $70,000 to $90,000 and beyond with experience. In positions where overtime is permitted, that amount, even for median level experience employees, can reach over $100,000.


Critical Workers During COVID-19


Process operations occupations are considered Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce jobs by the Department of Homeland Security as reported by the Labor Market Information Institute. They have not seen as negative of a downturn during COVID-19 in comparison to other lower-skilled occupations.


“We want our community to provide the workforce that will pursue these high paying, local, and essential jobs,” said Hal Cornish, Chairman of Marshall EDC. “When you have local employment opportunities, combined with affordable local training and jobs that pay well above the area median and average, that’s a win-win for our economic growth.”


For more information on TSTC Process Operations Programs, please read about the program on TSTC’s website, www.tstc.edu/programs/ProcessOperations and see the video on YouTube https://youtu.be/gvCEbv7Wum8.


For more information regarding wages, see the corresponding Marshall EDC Process Operations Wage Study at marshalledc.org.


Source:Marshall News Messenger

Press Release




Wage Study