RESERVE —The four-year university path is not realistic for all families or all circumstances.
STEM Night, held Thursday at the River Parishes Community College Reserve Campus, raised awareness of the affordable and practical resources St. John Parish residents have right in their backyard when it’s time to establish a new career.
Micah Andrade, interim director of the Reserve campus, said STEM night was about more than showcasing RPCC’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math programs. The event served as an open house for prospective students, a registration event for the fall semester starting August 22, and a means of engaging industry partners and businesses.
“Prospective students can see how our programs connect with the industry careers in our community,” Andrade said.
Exxon, Shell and Marathon were among the area industries represented during STEM Night.
According to Andrade, some companies are beginning to require a higher level of education.
“Here you get the training and experience, and we can tailor the curriculum to meet the needs of the industry programs,” he said.
David Sampson Sr., a representative of Shell, said swiftly changing technology has made companies more competitive as they seek out applicants who are “the best of the best.”
“Technology is changing. You can have a unit here that is being controlled in Baton Rouge,” Sampson said. “They (RPCC instructors) are good at pulling in people in the industry and asking, ‘‘Is our curriculum what you are looking for?’ As technology changes, the curriculum must change.”
RPCC instructor Russell Templet said skills gained in the PTECH program go beyond the daily responsibilities of a petrochemical plant.
“My goal is to make students a better employee for companies like Exxon and Shell, and a better person, too,” he said. “It’s about instilling respect, attendance, good work ethic.”
Templet began his industry career in 1974 and found a passion for training two years later. His goal is to one day be in a position where he can donate his salary to provide scholarships to students.
Templet added that with the amount of grant opportunities available in this day and age, there is no excuse to not pursue higher education.
Cherri Wells, director of career success at RPCC, said the college partners with the Louisiana Workforce Commission to eliminate financial barriers for prospective students. Wells wants the public to be aware of the various resources offered at RPCC, including the WorkReady U program that gives adult learners access to HiSet testing.
“We wanted to have an event to bring in the community, not only showing them the educational paths they can take at RPCC, but also giving them hands on learning and the full picture of jobs in this area since we were hit by the hurricane,” Wells said.
According to Andrade, associate’s degrees in science and the arts offered at RPCC are transferrable to four-year universities, presenting a cost-savings to students.
“What’s great about community college is that tuition is affordable here compared to places like LSU. Those places are far away as well, so you don’t have that family support, and you’re also having to pay your own rent,” Andrade said. “The practicality helps students whether the individual is right out of high school or if it’s someone with a family who is working full time.”
Technological advancement has expanded career opportunities in industry. However, Andrade said RPCC also offers an Allied Health program that can lead to a career in nursing, medical coding or related fields.
With locations in Denham Springs and the Capital Area, Open Care Healthcare was among the participants in Thursday’s STEM night.
Students can also begin coursework for drafting and design at the Reserve campus. During Thursday’s event, prospective students were able to experience an industry grade drafting software called ARKIO that utilized virtual reality to create designs in a 3D space.
For more information about RPCC, visit www.rpcc.edu.