By Erica Bivens| July 31, 2014 at 9:20 PM CDT - Updated July 21 at 12:11 AM
CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC)
As we previously reported, technical schools like SOWELA have seen a tremendous increase in female students studying in fields like Process Technology or PTEC.
And with the jobs wide-open for them, many women are capitalizing on the opportunity to work in the local plants.
Last week KPLC spoke with two female PTEC students at SOWELA who hope to work in the plants once they graduate.
While both already intern at local plants, they had some concerns entering a mostly male environment.
Today we share the experience of a former SOWELA PTEC student who now works at Sasol.
“I'm an Operator here at Sasol. I'm a second controller in the alcohol unit,” explained Valerie Burnett.
Burnett says some of her job duties include she, “Monitor the process, take samples and bring them to the lab for analysis.”
But her career starts back in 2009 when she graduated from SOWELA with a PTEC degree. Even then she recalls an increase in females in her classes.
“There were a lot of females going to school with me and I had classes with them,” said Burnett.
Between fall 2012 and fall 2013, SOWELA reported a 100% increase in females entering PTEC fields. Now, even plants are seeing that increase.
“We have seen a large influx of female candidates as we've seen the talent pool increase. We're happy to see that. Several institutions here are offering the training and development for them to be able to come into the fields,” explained Nicole Moncrief, Sr. Human Resources at Sasol.
Moncrief says their recruitment plan specifically looks at diversity, “Our plan looks at females as well as veterans and military personnel as well.”
Many of those jobs are already here or coming soon.
“Between now and the end of our project, we're projecting upward of 1,200 positions here of direct hires for Sasol,” said Moncrief.
And candidates interested in operational positions are encouraged to go to the Business and Career Solutions Center, because as Moncrief says, preparation is key.
“They can assist them and help them get onto the application and it's not just for Sasol, it's for all industry,” explained Moncrief.
While some may have reservations about working in a mostly male environment, Burnett says to just go for it, “Have confidence."
As with any job though, Burnett says there will be challenges.
“Sometimes I may need help but they're there to help me if I need it,” said Burnett, referring to her colleagues.
With tools and technology, it's not so much about physical strength anymore, but Burnett says that doesn't make the job easy.
“You're also climbing towers that are 300 feet in the air, you have to work in the hot weather, freezing cold weather, and rain,” said Burnett.
Despite that, Burnett says it's the best career she could've picked. And four years into it, she says she’s, “Still loving it.”