Chesapeake students get lesson on refinery

Published 1:06 pm Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Maybe Erica Ferguson is not so sure she wants to grow up to be a fireman. But Monday morning she knew what was the best part of the Catlettsburg Refining Career Days — dressing like one.

With some help from David Moore, an operator at the Marathon Refinery and volunteer firefighter there, Ferguson, an eighth grader at Chesapeake Middle School, bore up well when the three-layer oversized Kevlar coat and massive air tank went on her shoulders.

“This is really interactive,” she said.

Email newsletter signup

Besides playing dress-up, Ferguson and her classmates found out the force, literally, of the refinery’s fire department.

A 40-man volunteer crew at Station 18 handles all calls at the refinery off Interstate 64 near Catlettsburg, Ky. Their pumper trucks can propel jets of water at 6,000 gallons a minute, a force hard enough to overturn cars. That’s four times stronger than equipment city crews would use.

It was all a part of Marathon Petroleum LLC getting the word out to young teens about what the future job market can hold at the refinery complex.

Moore and his colleagues were manning one of the dozen booths set up at the Marathon training center gym to show the scope and depth of employment, everything from accounting to barge work to engineering. The career fair started last week and will continue through Friday.

At each booth were employees taking the day off from their regular routine to explain to the eighth graders what they do for a living.

The idea of the career fair came about a year ago after a brainstorming session by Marathon’s diversity team wanting to get information about jobs out to students still wondering about their future. The team thought the more the teens knew, the better chance they wouldn’t leave the area to look for jobs.

The first year 1,200 students from the Tri-State went through the fair. This time, 1,800 teens are expected and down the road Marathon hopes to reap the rewards of this two-week effort.

“(High schools students) already know what they want to do,” Greg Jackson, Human Resource Manager, said. “Let’s get the eighth graders who don’t know and peak their interest. We’ve gotten lots of positive feedback from teachers and the kids. The kids come out excited. They’ll think “three years down the road I want to do that.”

Over at the other side of the gym of the one-time England Hill school was Larry Fields, an inspector, who showed how infrared technology is used to inspect the thousands of pipes that go across the refinery complex. There on a television screen the teens watched themselves glow in shimmery reds, blues and yellows as their thermal signatures were read.

Watching the teens move from kiosk to kiosk was Vicki Hall, an eighth grade language arts teacher at Chesapeake who came along as one of the chaperones for the two-hour morning session. She sees the fair as time well-spent that can pay dividends later on for the young people.

“The students are learning a great deal and getting hands on experience and practical knowledge on the jobs available,” she said.

With her was Greta Lewis, Chesapeake science teacher.

“They are being shown things that are interesting to them,” Lewis said. “The kids are seeing science and math put into a real career.

This is the second year for the Career fair that last time attracted 1200 students from Tri-State middle schools. Conducted during the first two weeks in November, this fair will bring in about 8th graders