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JJC, LyondellBasell team up for co-op program

Karraker becomes first student to take part in unique training

Dana Karraker stands next to a working model of a distillation unit that is utilized during class as part of the Process Operator Technician training program at Joliet Junior College. Karraker completed the training program at JJC and also participated in a co-op program at LyondellBasell in Morris.
Dana Karraker stands next to a working model of a distillation unit that is utilized during class as part of the Process Operator Technician training program at Joliet Junior College. Karraker completed the training program at JJC and also participated in a co-op program at LyondellBasell in Morris.

Joliet Junior College and LyondellBasell in Morris formed a partnership to provide one student in JJC’s Process Operator Technician training program with a unique and exciting opportunity.

The Morris Complex, operated by LyondellBasell subsidiary Equistar Chemicals, is one of the largest petrochemical facilities in the Midwest. The site created a co-op program to provide on-the-job training for one student in a four-month, paid position with the company. This is the first time that this type of co-op program was offered in the operations area at the Morris Complex.

“Our goal with this co-op program is to partner with JJC in order to give people an opportunity to evaluate their career decision on the job, while in turn allowing our company personnel to evaluate potential employees in our facility with our processes,” said Mike Theis, senior training coordinator, at Morris.

“The student will be able to apply their course knowledge in real life applications under the direct supervision of a qualified operator,” he added.

Dana Karraker was the first JJC student selected to participate in the co-op program with LyondellBasell. She started the Process Operator Technician training program at JJC in August 2011.  She completed all 25 modules in the training program, which covered several important topics to prepare her for a career in the industry. She earned a certificate of completion from JJC in February 2012.

JJC’s training program instructors were asked to recommend five candidates for consideration from their current group of students. In March, the candidates interviewed with a panel of personnel from LyondellBasell, which included human resources, a process engineer, an administrative assistant, an operator and an operations supervisor. After completing the interview process, Karraker was selected to participate in the co-op program.

The co-op program began in April and included 12-hour shifts on a rotating schedule as part of her on-the-job training. In addition, Karraker was assigned a mentor at the plant to assist her throughout the program.

According to Ray Provance, ethylene shift supervisor, the co-op program gives the participant an opportunity to work in an industrial setting and actually see how it is.

“Working as a co-op will also help the student to gain valuable experience in the industry and help build a resume,” he said.

Provance also explained some of the key areas that a participant will learn about in the co-op program.

“During the four months, the co-op will get a chance to see all of the different workings of a chemical plant,” he said. “In the olefins area, they will get to experience furnace/heater operations, refrigeration/compression and distillation theory. In the polymer areas, they would get to see how the reaction and extrusion areas work. In any area, the co-op will get to experience the different type of pump operations, pressure and temperature compensations and auto refrigeration.”

“The co-op will also get to experience the life critical safety culture that we at LyondellBasell use without exception, such as lock out tag out (LOTO), fall protection, confined space entry, work permitting, breathing air, excavations, first line break, and safety system/shutdown bypass,” he added.

Karraker’s co-op program concluded in August and the timing was perfect. A full-time job opening was available with LyondellBasell.

Based upon her performance during the program, she had the opportunity to interview for the position. Later that month, she was hired as a full-time operations technician at the company.

Bruce Raeburn, operations manager for the Morris Complex, had very positive feedback about the co-op program.

“(Dana) was able to demonstrate her work ethic and skills through the co-op program,” Raeburn said. “ We hope to build on this recent success.”

In addition to the classroom education at JJC, the co-op program experience was very beneficial.

“The program gave me an introduction to most of the aspects of the petro field that I would be dealing with on a day-to-day basis,” Karraker said.

Even if a job opening had not been available at LyondellBasell, she still would have received excellent on-the-job training that would be very beneficial in future employment opportunities. The co-op program provides real-world experiences in addition to the information that was learned in the classroom.

The Process Operator Technician training program at JJC is designed for individuals who are interested in a career in Process Operations Technology. Participants learn the theories behind various chemical plant processes and also gain hands-on experiences. The fast-track training program is 15 to 20 weeks.

The classroom topics include a variety of important aspects, such as: compressors and turbines; furnaces/fired heaters; steam generation; introduction to steam systems and traps; valves and actuation; introduction to heat exchangers;  refrigeration; cooling towers; reactor fundamentals; distillation; introduction to instrumentation; piping and instrumentation, symbols and drawing; effective communications; teamwork and problem solving; plant systems overview; physics for operators; basic chemistry; introduction to safety; health and environmental standards; pumps; introduction to the process industry; employment in the process industry; process technician duties and responsibilities; technical math for operators; introduction to motors; and basic electricity.

Karraker added that the training program at JJC really helped to prepare her for the next step in her career. A major advantage to the program is that the JJC instructors have real-world experience in the industry. They can share real-world experiences and scenarios to complement the material that is taught in the classroom.

“I enjoyed the real-life experiences that each of these instructors brought to the table,” she said. “All of the instructors are experts in their fields and knew how to prepare us to go on with further training on the jobsite. They gave me the tools to succeed.”

Instructor Matt Mirro has taught classes at JJC for the past five years. His classes include furnaces/fired heaters, valves and actuation, steam systems and steam generation. He is also employed by a local chemical company and has 29 years of experience in the industry. He shares his experiences and insights with students.

“I do real-world teaching and give the students real examples of what is actually going to happen,” he said. “I cover all safety aspects, too.”

The Process Operator Technician training program is one of the many short-term training programs offered through Joliet Junior College’s Corporate and Community Services.

For more information about the Process Operator Technician training program at JJC, visit

LyondellBasell’s Morris Complex manufactures ethylene, which is converted into polyethylene resins. These resins serve as building blocks for their customers who manufacture such products as leak-proof and shatter-proof containers for industrial and household liquids, packaging that protects food from spoilage and contamination, and children’s toys that are safe and durable.

To learn more about LyondellBasell, visit the website

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