Making it relatable: Refinery teams help students understand career pathways

Community News

El Paso, Texas, Foundation
El Paso refinery engineering interns Ryan Renshaw (left) and Cory Bower (middle), and Technical Services Manager Scott Simon (right), speak to elementary school students, explaining basic refining concepts and highlighting careers available in the refining industry.
  • Students across El Paso, Texas, are being encouraged to explore a variety of future career possibilities through an initiative that is providing interaction with working professionals.
  • An employee group at Marathon Petroleum’s El Paso refinery has begun its second year of providing presentations and supporting academic competitions and related activities in schools.
  • The refinery employees involved include representatives of maintenance, engineering, human resources, operations, IT, safety and administrative support.

When helping young students visualize their professional futures, employees of Marathon Petroleum’s El Paso, Texas, refinery have learned how to simplify topics such as refinery operations.

“We compare distillation to boiling liquid in a pot on a stove and control systems to video games,” said Technical Services Manager Scott Simon. 

Simon is among the employees involved with the refinery’s Education and Outreach Working Group (E&O), which has launched its second year of collaborating with local school districts to enrich classroom education and inspire career exploration by students in elementary grades through high school. 2023 got off to a busy start for E&O members with eight volunteer activities completed by the end of March. They served as judges for two robotics competitions and a science fair; participated in two ‘Read Across America’ events; spoke at two career days; and served as ‘principal for the day’ at an elementary school.  

“I believe too many kids drive by our refinery every day and think, ‘I’ll never work there,’” Simon said. “The more students build relationships with professionals in their community, the more they can see opportunities and the pathways to reach them.”

“The more students build relationships with professionals in their community, the more they can see opportunities and the pathways to reach them.”

Simon was joined by El Paso refinery engineering interns Cory Bower and Ryan Renshaw for a recent career day presentation at an elementary school.

El Paso Refinery Union
El Paso Refinery Union Health and Safety Representative Mike Vasquez reads to students as part of his duties as ‘principal for the day’ at a local elementary school.

“It helped me realize the importance of community involvement, not only for the company, but also personally,” said Renshaw. “I was motivated by the chance to encourage students to work hard in school and set a high bar for themselves.”

The group emphasized that refining and many other industries require the support of a wide variety of skills and job roles, from engineers and mechanics to accountants and human resources specialists.

“Students learn about the education required for specific jobs. It can be helpful for us to describe what we studied and how it relates to our passion, so they can pinpoint what they want to achieve based on their interests,” Bower said. 

Additional engagement with local school districts is in the works for later this year. To support planning, E&O maintains a group email address and a web-linked form for schools to use in requesting volunteers.

Simon suggested E&O’s investment of time today could yield returns for several years to come. “I remember a refinery employee coming to my high school chemistry class,” he said. “Spending time with us and providing the chance to ask questions showed me he cared and made him relatable to me.”