Vocational education has been a mainstay of high school curriculum. In recent years, schools have added new courses offerings beyond the familiar Agricultural Education, Home Economics and Industrial Trades.
In the Brazosport Independent School District, vocational education has expanded to include industry and manufacturing courses in welding, machining and process technology. At Brazoswood High School, one of the departments is now called "Career and Technical Education," or, CTE. "I think the change for career and technical education really stemmed from the fact that we started hearing from more job and industry businesses saying that they had a need and demand for high-skilled workers and that we could prepare those students here in high school," says Jessie Jennings, Director of Career and Technical Education for Brazosport ISD.
The greatest demand was in welding. Brazoria County businesses found themselves in need of qualified welders for projects like expanding and upgrading facilities, or, in Freeport LNG’s case, building a new facility from the ground up. The CTE Center at Brazoswood already had two small welding labs, but they were in need of renovation and better equipment.
Although the school received some funds from a 2014 county bond election, they fell short of what was needed for the envisioned upgrade. That's when Freeport LNG donated $265,000.
“This new welding facility is important to us because the construction of our gas liquefaction and export facility depends on the work of skilled welders, and a lot of them,” remarks Wendy Mazurkiewicz, Freeport LNG's Director of Community Affairs. "We want to invest in these programs in support of those students who choose career paths that not only lead to good jobs in the crafts, but to high-paying jobs that they can enter right out of high school.”
The donation was celebrated on November 3rd at a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by school and county officials and Freeport LNG representatives. After the official ribbon cutting, attendees toured the newly renamed Freeport LNG Manufacturing Center's labs. Student guides directed guests from lab to lab. There, they demonstrated new and upgraded welding booths, lathe machines, pipe bending machines and a CNC plasma table.
The facility was nicely decorated for the event by the school's architecture and construction, floral design and agricultural mechanics and manufacturing departments, and everyone also enjoyed refreshments supplied by the school's culinary arts department.
"I think the most exciting thing in terms of what lies ahead for career and technical education at Brazosport ISD is the opportunities," observes Jennings. "I think they're limitless. I think we've opened new doors and created new pathways for these students."
"I have a saying," adds Brazosport ISD Superintendent Danny Massey, “’Every day is a gift.' We are fortunate and grateful to be in this school district and be in this community where we get so much community support. Freeport LNG has really stepped up and provided our students the industry certification to go to work in really good-paying jobs and careers."