Industry leaders tout sense of purpose as way to attract young workers

(Photography by Cheryl Gerber) Cornerstone Chemical Company COO Tom Yura

Offering young workers a sense of purpose can help the petrochemical industry compete for the best and brightest, industry leaders say.

Workforce recruitment was a recurring topic at last week’s annual meeting of the Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance.

“We’ve got some work to do in terms of attraction and recruitment,” says Darylene Harris, plant manager for Shell Catalysts & Technologies in Port Allen. “Not many people want to come into this field.”

Industry officials say new workers need to be able to use the latest technology, though practical mechanical knowledge still is important. Communication skills also are necessary for leadership positions, and industry leaders can be difference-makers in their communities, they say.

“They can have purpose in their job and make a hell of a lot of money,” Harris says.

Cornerstone Chemical COO Tom Yura, who chairs GBRIA’s board, says advocacy is more of a priority for GBRIA than it was five years ago because of the need to correct what he considers incomplete and sometimes inaccurate messages about the industry’s environmental impact. He recalled a conversation about wind energy and noted that someone has to build and maintain the wind turbines.

“Making [young professionals] part of the solutions will get the next generation of supporters and workers and drivers, as opposed to the next generation of protesters,” Yura says.