Working as a Contractor

Work for yourself

If you are looking to start a career in pipeline fields or healthcare fields, you need to first consider financial coverage. Grants offer many financial options to cover the cost of school. Look for schools that offer the most need-based aid such as private schools boasting of large endowments or state-funded public universities. Look for grants that are awarded for things beyond need, such as field of study. You might benefit too from contacting the graduate school finance aid office and asking for any additional opportunities they have available or know are available from private sources.

There are certain graduate grants linked to specific functions such as those pursing a degree in a high-demand field or those pursing a medical degree. Then there are subject-specific grants for those who are highly qualified and pursuing a specific subject. Specific groups and minorities can capitalize upon grants designed to promote their cases.

Starting Your Career

Once you get your career started, you can begin to work for yourself as a contractor. Contracting work in professional fields like that of a plumber, electrician, or someone who manages heating and air conditioning mean you can get your own hours and work for yourself. It also means that other people can get ahold of you through a contracting website. Using an online contractor search, people in need of professionals can find the most qualified ones. People need help finding those contractors who are qualified, those who have the right educational parameters, and the right experience.

Using an Online Search Service

With an online search, people can find listings for the different types of contractors they need in their home. A homeowner or business, for example, might want to install an eco-friendly version of their heating and air conditioning system. To make these upgrades and comply with certain government regulations, they need an expert. But not just any expert. They want someone who has installed the same systems before. They want someone who has installed these systems on the same scale. They want people who have expert qualifications and some sort of education to support their work. Having a degree in the applicable field will make you stand out as one such person. With that degree, you can begin to acquire the work experience you need to get higher paid positions, to work with more advanced systems, and to be that one expert contractor that people and businesses look for online.

When you work as a contractor, you can set up information online that is easily found through a contractor search. You can work with third party websites and set up agreements where they post information perhaps like a CV or a phone number with working hours for appointment setting. With a third party website you can also send over customers who are happy with your work, and let them post reviews so that other potential customers can read them. All of this benefits the customers as much as it does the contractors, helping to separate good from bad.


Pipefitters Have Great Career Opportunities in Our Region

Pipefitters play a major role in the construction and maintenance of plant site systems. Pipefitting fabricators generally install and maintain pipe systems in power and petrochemical plants, as well as heating and cooling systems in large office buildings. As mentioned on our CCPI page about pipefitting, pipefitters and steamfitters typically lay out, assemble, install, alter, and repair pipelines or pipe systems that carry water, steam, air, lubrication, or other liquids or gases for industrial production and process systems. Additionally pipefitters apply pipe system knowledge and blueprint reading capability to select pipe size and type, related equipment and materials such as pipe supports, hangars, and hydraulic supports systems according to required specifications.


Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters may use many different materials and construction techniques, depending on the type of project. Residential water systems, for example, use copper, steel, and plastic pipe that one or two plumbers can install. Power plant water systems, by contrast, are made of large steel pipes that usually take a crew of pipefitters to install. Some workers install stainless steel pipes on dairy farms and in factories, mainly to prevent contamination. Plumbers and fitters sometimes cut holes in walls, ceilings, and floors. With some pipe systems, workers may hang steel supports from ceiling joists to hold the pipe in place. Because pipes are seldom manufactured to the exact length needed, plumbers and fitters measure and then cut and bend lengths of pipe as needed. Their tools often include saws and pipe cutters.

Earning your training and education with Texas Gulf Coast Community Colleges will position you in a place to succeed as a pipefitter. Occupations at this level generally require more than 12 months of on-the-job training combined with work experience and formal classroom instruction for workers to develop the skills needed for normal job performance. This category includes formal and informal apprenticeships and short-term, intensive, employer-sponsored training that workers must successfully complete. Pokies rely on luck, and your previous spins won’t affect future spins in any way real money slots.

Several of our colleges offer curriculum designed for a successful career in pipefitting. We offer many programs that put you on the fast track to becoming a pipefitter. For instance, Brazosport College emphasizes hands-on classroom training and provides college credit for on-the-job work experiences. At Lee College, the pipefitting program places special emphasis on hands-on training using its three large and completely equipped labs. Blueprint reading and isometric sketching are given special attention as requested by local industries. Threading pipe, socket-weld and butt-weld pipe fabrication skills and the mathematics needed to build a foundation in this career are all fully covered. Students in training are generally considered to be employed in the occupation, and our community college member schools will give you the tools needed to succeed at a fraction of the cost of a majority of college programs.

What a Degree in Pipefitting Offers

Pipefitters are employed by pipeline construction contractors, maintenance contractors and subcontractors, thermal or steam generating plants, manufacturers, utility companies, oil refineries, gas plants, pulp mills and chemical plants. Pipefitters can expect to progress from entry-level helper, to journeyman to supervisors as their knowledge and experience increases.

Hourly wages for pipefitters can range anywhere from $16 to $25 an hour, while some senior pipefitters will make more. The median wage for all pipefitters is about $25 an hour, but because demand is high in the Gulf Coast region, many pipefitters will work overtime for time-and-a-half wages or more.

Annual income for pipefitters varies widely depending on their hourly wages and the number of hours they work in a year. However, most pipefitters earn somewhere between $35,000 and $75,000 annually. Job opportunities are on the rise since many people working in pipefitting are expected to retire within the next 10 years.

Employment of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters is projected to grow 21 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Construction of buildings and the need for new septic systems should drive demand for these workers. Overall job opportunities are expected to be good as some employers continue to report difficulty finding qualified workers. Especially in the Gulf Coast and surrounding areas, the economy is humming with a strong need for pipefitting fabricators. You can rest assured that Texas Gulf Community Colleges will prepare you for success in this thriving market.

Petrochemical Manufacturing is a Bright Spot in Today’s Oil and Gas Sector

There has been much doom and gloom in the news lately about the price decline in crude oil, and an impending oil bust in Texas. Oil prices have plummeted by more than 50 percent since June 2014. Currently, crude oil prices are hovering around $50 a barrel. The price per barrel is forecast to dip as low as $31 by the end of first quarter 2015.

The grim outlook may make you think that the oil and gas sector will suffer, so it may not be wise to work in the industry because there may not be as many jobs. However, this isn’t true. Petrochemical manufacturers actually benefit from reduced oil prices. Outside of the oil and gas sector, even the airline and express delivery industries also stand to benefit from the low oil prices.

To help you understand how petrochemical manufacturers gain from low oil prices, let’s first cover why crude oil prices are falling.

Supply and Demand Issues Contribute to Oil Price Drop

An oversupply of oil is one contributing factor to the oil price decline. Domestic production of oil in the U.S. has surged over the last few years, so oil imports from countries such as Saudi Arabia weren’t needed as much. Those countries that once sold oil to the United States are now competing in the Asian markets. As a result, the oil-producing countries are lowering prices of petroleum.

The drop in oil prices can also be attributed to a lagging demand globally. For instance, in both European and developing countries, the economies are sluggish and consumers are driving more energy-efficient vehicles.

Petrochemical Costs Are Falling

Petroleum and natural gas serve as the raw materials used to extract hydrocarbons such as ethane, propane, and butane, which are then used as feedstocks for petrochemicals. Ultimately, these petrochemicals are used to manufacture the end products. Petrochemicals can be found in so many products that we use every day including cosmetics, furniture, appliances, TVs, radios, items made of plastic, and even medicines.

With the dip in crude oil prices, there has also been a subsequent drop in derivative petrochemical costs. Key petrochemicals in the U.S., such as ethylene, propylene, benzene and methanol are experiencing some of their lowest prices since 2009 when crude oil was about $50 per barrel.

So, the reduced crude oil prices provide petrochemical manufacturers with cheaper feedstocks such as ethane and propane. Steven Craig, a University of Houston economist, sums it up in this KHOU-TV report:

“When petroleum is cheap, petrochemicals do better,” Craig said.

Petrochemical Industry, Manufacturers to Experience Growth

The U.S. petrochemical industry is expected to keep expanding in 2015 amid the upstream oil and gas sector woes. The industry has been investing billions to grow and build new plants to leverage the inexpensive domestic crude oil. Industry experts are optimistic that any surges in oil prices won’t diminish growth around Houston and the Gulf Coast region, according to a Houston Chronicle article that ran in Dec. 2014. The article reports that the industry has planned 215 projects valued at $133 billon. Those projects include building new plants, re-opening shuttered facilities, and expand existing facilities

The future is bright in 2015 for petrochemical manufacturers. So, don’t put your career in the petrochemical industry on hold because of dropping oil prices. There are still many career opportunities for you to explore at petrochemical manufacturing companies. The Texas Gulf Coast Consortium of Community Colleges (TGCCC) has knowledgeable instructors who can teach you the skills needed for high-paying, petrochemical-related jobs. Learn more about TGCCCC’s Community College Petrochemical Initiative and read more about the type of jobs that are available in the industry as well as the courses you need to take.

Construction Trade Jobs In Demand

Industrial PlumberPlumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters are among the occupations that have a bright job outlook, according to both federal and Texas projections. These jobs are forecast to increase by 21 percent nationally from 2012 to 2022, which is faster than the average for all jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor of Statistics. Locally, the Texas Gulf Coast region projects a 29 percent increase in occupations for pipefitters and steamfitters.

It should be noted that each of the occupations – plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters – are part of the same trade, which is construction. However, each occupation is specialized, even though they all share some similar tasks. Pipefitters, plumbers, and steamfitters assemble, install, change and repair pipelines or pipe systems that transport water, steam, air, or other types of liquids and gases.

The demand for these jobs can be attributed to several factors, including the flourishing petrochemical sector and a general lack of workers trained for those jobs.

Job Duties and the Workplace

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters perform the following tasks:

  • Install pipes and fixtures;
  • Analyze blueprints and follow state and local building codes;
  • Decide the amount of material and type of equipment needed;
  • Inspect and test pipe systems and pipelines that have been installed;
  • Troubleshoot systems that are not working; and
  • Replace worn parts.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pipefitters usually work in the manufacturing and petrochemical industries, where they’re installing large pipe systems that carry petroleum or chemicals, for instance. Plumbers, on the other hand, typically work in the residential area and light industrial construction. Steamfitters install pipe systems that move liquids or gases under high pressure conditions. Many steamfitters have jobs at large college campuses, industrial plants, or power plants.

Pipefitters, plumbers and steamfitters can earn up to $31.24  per hour. In May 2012, the median annual wage for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters was $49,140, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Training Future Pipefitters

Many pipefitters participate in apprenticeships offered by employers who provide hands-on training. Formal training is also available at community colleges like the member schools of the Texas Gulf Coast Consortium of Community Colleges (TGCCCC), where students can receive top-notch instruction that takes into consideration industry requirements and industry best practices that will serve students well in their future jobs. The instruction in the classroom consists of teaching students the skills that they would learn in an apprenticeship program.

The TGCCCC member schools are in contact with companies in the petrochemical sector to stay updated about current practices, innovations and equipment that are being utilized in the field. Instructors then teach and share this valuable information with their students. Contact your local community college to learn more about degrees and certification programs that are being offered.

Jobs for the Next Wave of Machinists

Machinists - TGCCCCThe perception that the petrochemical and manufacturing fields have hazardous, gritty work environments where employees churn out repetitive, monotonous work could not be farther from the truth nowadays. Both of these technology-driven fields are flourishing – and providing high-paying jobs in safe, clean working environments – making the need for skilled workers such as machinists even more critical.

Machinists set up and operate a variety of powerful tools that are either computer-controlled or mechanically-controlled in order to produce accurate metal parts, instruments, and tools for engines and other automated products. As industries such as petrochemical and manufacturing experience surges, it’s vital to train future machinists to help keep jobs in the United States, which in turn benefits our economy.

The job outlook for machinists is favorable. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecast the demand for machinists to increase about 7 percent, adding about 29,000 jobs, through 2020. One of the reasons for the growth is because many employees who occupied machinist jobs are retiring, and machinist jobs will need to be filled by new, trained specialists.

In states such as Texas, the oil and gas sector is driving the demand for skilled workers, particularly in areas such as Houston, where the petrochemical industry is facing a shortage. While jobs are available for machinists in the Houston region, employers are having a difficult time finding people who possess the advanced skills and understanding of machining technologies to fill these positions. To help equip students with the training needed for these jobs, the member schools of the Texas Gulf Coast Consortium of Community Colleges offer high-quality, affordable instruction regarding machining and other subjects that will prepare them for their careers with a two-year Associate Degree.

The Skills of a Machinist

Petrochemical and manufacturing companies make substantial investments in their equipment. A team of machinists will be responsible for operating various pieces of equipment. Therefore, it’s essential that machinists are team players with good communication skills. While a machinist doesn’t need to have a four-year degree, they should possess math and science skills. Machinists typically carry out the following duties:

  • Review and work from blueprints, computer-aided design (CAD), and other materials
  • Set up and operate various tools including computer numerical control (CNC) tools
  • Turn, mill, drill and grind machine parts to certain parameters
  • Plan and troubleshoot the production process
  • Oversee the feed and speed of machines
  • Examine and test completed products for accuracy

Machinists use a variety of tools (either manually controlled or CNC) such as lathes, milling machines, and grinders to produce precision metal parts. There will be a projected 18,775 jobs available in 2016 for machinists in the Houston region. The median hourly pay for machinists is $19.64.

The machinist trade is continually evolving, so machinists will need up-to-date training. Member schools of the Texas Gulf Coast Consortium of Community Colleges offer reputable academic programs that will pave the way for the next generation of successful machinists.

Why Should I Work in the Petrochemical Industry and Why Now?

iStock_000000807449Smallv2When you’re growing up, your hopes and dreams for your adult life always lead to the glamorous side of life. You want to be a rock star, or an NFL running back, or maybe you want to go to Hollywood and be a big star. But, then, somewhere around high school you start to realize maybe you like small town life and maybe you won’t be one of the 0.1% of athletes who becomes a world champion NBA forward. And, that turns out to be better than OK – it turns out to be awesome, because there is a whole world of opportunity for success right in your own backyard.

Growing up in the Houston/Texas Gulf Coast area, you probably take for granted big corporate names like ExxonMobil. You forget that it’s one of the five largest companies in the entire world, and that its employees in Texas alone earn billions of dollars combined each year. In fact, petrochemical companies like ExxonMobil, Dow, and BASF have thousands of jobs open or coming open in the next decade. And, those jobs provide high pay scales, great benefits, and something no high school dreamer thinks about when dreaming glamorous dreams – stability. These companies are profitable, they’re expanding in our area, and they’ve lasted for decades and will last for decades more.

Some estimates of the petrochemical expansion in the Houston/Gulf Coast region put the total spent on new plants and expansions at $15 billion, with 20,000 new jobs created. So many jobs are open that companies can’t find enough skilled workers to fill them – and that’s just in our area. The huge new natural gas operations in north and west Texas and other parts of the country are also creating massive numbers of high-paying jobs for the same skill sets.

Pipe fitters, welders, and electricians are all in very high demand, and the salaries reflect the competition among companies for the trained workers out there. That’s why ExxonMobil has partnered, through Lee University, with our Consortium to help recruit and train as many skilled employees as possible. BASF has separately partnered with Brazosport College, another member, to train workers. And, all of this high demand is great news for you – because you can make a lot of money, with a two-year Associate Degree, right here and right now.

With this high demand and worker shortage, creating lots of overtime opportunities, many employees in the career fields we are training are making $100,000 or more each year. That’s comparable to what a lawyer or stockbroker at a big firm would make – but with six or more years of college education, instead of two. It sounds too good to be true, but you can browse the wage data in our Community College Petrochemical Initiative section and see for yourself. All of that data is from real-world sources, compiled by an independent agency.

We’re living in an interesting time right now. Because of the growing natural gas, oil, and petrochemical industries, there has probably never been a quicker path to high-income jobs for young people than there is right now. Who knows – maybe mechanical drafter will replace “running back for the Texans” as a dream job. Alright, alright – it never will. But hey, a high-paying, stable, local career with a community college education … that’s a pretty nice back-up plan!

Process Technicians: A Bright Future

One of the most crucial jobs at a chemical plant or oil refinery is a process technician, who monitors and maintains the manufacturing process that makes chemicals, fuels and plastics.

People in the Baby Boomer generation have long occupied process technician positions. With many Baby Boomers retiring from the workforce, though, there is a shortage of process technicians – particularly in the flourishing petrochemical sector. The demand for process technicians and operators who can help ensure that products and processes are safe has become even more critical. The job outlook is bright for process technicians and operators. In Texas, the overall salary potential for process technicians and operators ranges from $42,000 to $75,000.

The process technology field may appeal to you if you possess or want to develop both strong problem-solving and communication skills. You must also have a good foundation in both math and science. A process technology program will prepare you for a successful career as a process technician or operator in several industries, including petrochemical and oil and gas.

Industrial Machinery Mechanics in DemandProcess Technician Degree - TGCCCC

An industrial machinery mechanic repairs, installs, adjusts, or maintains industrial production and processing machinery or refinery and pipeline distribution systems, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In May 2012, the national median salary was $45,840 for industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers.Within the process technology field, an especially high demand exists for industrial machinery mechanics.  Employment of industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers is forecasted to grow by 17 percent from 2012 to 2022, which is faster than the average for all jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Generally speaking, a process technician monitors and controls various changes such as chemical fluctuations throughout different processes to manufacture a product derived from raw materials.  A process technician or operator performs the following:

  • compiles information using technology or instruments that check conditions such as pressure and temperature
  • oversees and troubleshoots equipment used in various processes
  • operates equipment to help keep plants or facilities running both safely and efficiently
  • assigns repair jobs to the appropriate departments
  • maintains a safe workplace
  • trains staff members
  • develops procedures

A process technician or operator has the opportunity to work in both indoor and outdoor settings. They work with various professionals such as engineers and maintenance staff.

Opportunities in the Process Technology FieldProcess Technician - TGCCCC

Local and international employment opportunities are also currently available for process technicians in other industries such as food and beverage, power generation, and pharmaceuticals.

In the future, it is anticipated that process technicians will take on duties that are normally handled by other professionals such as engineers. Therefore, students will need to acquire specialized degrees such as an associate’s degree in process technology that will provide instruction in areas such as physics and engineering principles. Strong technical and problem solving skills will be even more essential for process technicians.

If you value a mentally challenging job with much responsibility and where you can have a daily impact on the company’s performance, then the process technology field may be suited for you. The member colleges of TGCCCC have rigorous process technology programs that will provide you with the proper training and skills to achieve your career goals.

Welders Sought Amid Oil and Gas Boom

The booming oil and gas industry and the resurgence of the manufacturing sector in the U.S. – and especially Texas – have created a high demand for skilled welders. The demand is so critical that a shortage of welders looms, according to this recent Businessweek report. The American Welding Society anticipates a shortage of 216,000 welding professionals by 2020.

The oil and gas and petrochemical areas will gain 1.3 million new jobs by 2030, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Companies in the oil and gas sector seek welders who can work on new pipelines and new facilities that are being built over the next decade, as well as repair and maintenance of oil rigs. The demand for welders also comes on the heels of an aging workforce of welders that is retiring.

If you’re considering a career in the petrochemical industry or even manufacturing, then welding may be the occupation for you. Skilled welders have the opportunity to land relatively high-paying jobs and explore exciting career paths.

Professional Welder - TGCCCC

Welding: A Hi-Tech Skill

Over time, welding has become a high-tech skill because welders can also operate equipment such as robots and sophisticated automated systems that use various methods such as lasers to join metal parts. Welders are trained to use program software for these automated systems.At its core, welding is the method of linking metal parts together using equipment. Through the welding process, the metal parts are exposed to heat, which melts and permanently fuses these pieces together. Welding is the method used to link beams when constructing buildings. It’s used to join pipes in oil refineries and pipelines. More than 50 percent of U.S. products such as computers, cell phones, ships, and farm machinery are created through some form of welding.

Some of the core main tasks that welders perform include:

  • Reviewing blueprints and other pertinent documents
  • Determining the dimensions that need to be welded
  • Using equipment for the welding process
  • Maintaining equipment

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The American Welding Society advises welding novices that some of the basic skills needed include problem-solving, patience, reliability and creativity.

Career Paths in Welding

For the most part, fundamental welding skills are transferrable and can be used in other industries. Welders are sought for a variety of projects ranging from rebuilding bridges to working on oil and gas pipelines. There are a variety of career paths in welding, which may include:

  • Structural iron worker
  • Welding engineer
  • Sheet metal worker
  • Underwater welder
  • Pipefitter
  • Welding Inspector

Source: American Welding Society

A potential shortage of welders could mean exciting career opportunities for you if decide to become a welder. The Texas Gulf Coast Community Colleges Consortium offers quality welding training and instruction that includes the latest technologies that will equip students with the welding skills to ensure they have successful careers in the petrochemical industry. Contact your local community college to learn more about welding instruction and future career opportunities.

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