It was 2010 and Jerry Wascom, ExxonMobil’s Americas refining director, was worried. Despite fuel and petrochemical manufacturers making significant improvements in the safety of their individual operations, across the industries there was an uptick in serious incidents. Workers were getting injured, surrounding communities were losing confidence, the reputation of the industries was being tarnished and regulators were becoming increasingly engaged. Wascom turned to his counterparts within the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers Association (AFPM), the industry trade group, and asked, “Are we doing enough to protect people?”
Filling the job vacancies left in the wake of the Baby Boomer Retirement Wave is proving to be particularly difficult for the manufacturing sector.
Before the pandemic hit, the nation’s manufacturing sector — including the refining and petrochemical industries — was wrestling with how to find and train enough young people to replace the wave of Baby Boomers retiring from the workforce at a rate of nearly 6,000 per day.
Teachers tasked with preparing the next generation of petrochemical and refinery workers are becoming the students.
Lupita Escandon has heard her fair share of “nos.” The mother of three young children had faced plenty of obstacles in balancing life at home with her dream of embarking on a career path for the betterment of her family and herself.
There aren’t many production facilities in the country more secure than refineries. Leaders in the fuel and petrochemical industries pride themselves on workplace safety and security, which is evident based on even a cursory glance at any AFPM member’s annual security report.
What comes next for returning service members varies greatly. For McNeill and Harbin, both found rewarding work that instilled pride in them not too dissimilar from what they felt serving their country - in the fuel refining and petrochemical industries.
As American manufacturers champion their contributions to economic competitiveness and product innovation today, the industry has yet another reason to celebrate – U.S. manufacturing employment is still on the rise.