West Orange-Cove superintendent building “dialogue” following major Golden Triangle Polymers announcement
Published 12:14 am Friday, March 24, 2023
WEST ORANGE — Dr. Rickie Harris is scheduled to meet early next month with representatives of Golden Triangle Polymers Company in an effort to clear a path from local students to potential employment.
The superintendent of West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District is focused on preparing students for a potential future in area plants.
That syncs with Golden Triangle Polymers, which held a groundbreaking this month celebrating a planned $8.5 billion Orange County facility that serves as a joint venture between Chevron Phillips Chemical and Qatar Energy.
Startup is expected to occur in 2026, with the Marlex® polyethylene-producing plant employing more than 500 full-time workers.
Harris said his meeting with Golden Triangle Polymers will create a dialogue gaining insight on exactly what local educators need to train students for a career.
Harris noted district officials have been forward thinking with existing welding and precision machinery training and plans to incorporate HVAC instruction.
“We’re trying to make sure we are going in the right direction,” he said. “The last thing we want is for (Golden Triangle Polymers) to say they don’t have any viable workforce from right here in Orange.”
Harris said a relationship already exists with Chevron Phillips, President and CEO Bruce Chinn and area plant manager Craig Lemons.
He noted it was important for West-Orange Cove students to see Chinn, an African-American, in the position he occupies.
“A lot of times if you don’t see anyone who looks like you in a high position like that, you don’t know if that is a possibility,” Harris said. “I think that is a great, visible image for our students, not just African American students, but all students. There is opportunity for them right here in their backyard if they go and do what they need to do to prepare themselves.”
The educator said the district’s relationship with Chevron Phillips already produces an atmosphere where students and staff mix and mingle with employees.
“They come and do some mentorships and different things like that,” Harris said. “Those are going to be the greatest connections right there.”
He lauded Chevron Phillips Community Relations Representative Vicki Derese for a “fabulous job” supporting the school district’s programs.
“They have made generous donations in the past to support our efforts to meet the needs of our students in the form of scholarships, our education foundation and grants to our teachers,” Harris said. “They have been very willing partners. Craig Lemons has always been a great person to work with. We have a wonderful relationship and I look forward to it growing and getting better.”