Air Products and Chemicals Inc. seeks partnership with Max Hayes to develop Life Skills USA curriculum
by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, November 2013) Air Products and Chemicals Incorporated (APCI), a cryogenic air separation plant on Quigley Road, lies in the heart of Cleveland’s Industrial Valley. The plant separates air into oxygen, nitrogen and argon and sells the gases to many industries including the nearby Arcelor Mittal steel mill. Charlie Dawson, Site Manager at the APCI Quigley Road plant, says as much of the current manufacturing workforce nears retirement age, manufacturers will be hiring young people by the droves to replace them. To that end, Dawson says he has become involved in Skills USA a national program that works with colleges and high schools to promote a curriculum and life skills training program that will help better prepare students for a future in manufacturing.
Dawson says the Life Skills USA curriculum and national competitions help students in trade and technical programs to hone their hard skills such as welding, precision machining, computer aided design, and auto repair. The program also deals with soft skills lie how to dress for an interview, and how to convey information to a potential employer. Dawson says, when he sees a potential employee has participated in a Life Skills USA program, that helps that person “get a foot in the door” in terms of being considered for an interview.
“Air Products is looking to be a corporate sponsor to help build Skills USA at Max Hayes,” says Dawson. He said would like to help Max Hayes, its partner WIRE-Net and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to take the next step and get the program up and running at Max Hayes.
“It is very difficult to find qualified people that want to go into skilled trades,” said Dawson. He said that helping Max Hayes to develop the Skills USA curriculum will help to assure that students have the skill set needed by manufacturing firms like Air Products.
On National Manufacturing Day on October 4th, fifteen Max Hayes High School juniors and seniors joined Max Hayes Instructor Nick Stipanovich and WIRE-Net Director of Youth Program Jose Estremera, and his son, a Padua High School student, on a tour of the Air Products and Chemicals plant on Quigley Road.
The students were treated as honored guests, receiving a full tour of the plant, and a lunch of pizza and salads. Company veterans Kellie Jenkins, Larry Glavic and Dale Engelhardt even made a couple of batches of ice cream using liquid nitrogen to quickly freeze the mix of ingredients as students watched.
Upon arriving at the plant, the students were equipped with hard hats, ear plugs, safety glasses and safety vests and set out on a tour led by Site Supervisor Margaret Hericks and Site Manager Charlie Dawson.
Hericks said Air Products pulls air from the atmosphere, cleans and compresses it and lowers the temperature. She said air is 20% oxygen, 78% nitrogen, and less than 1% argon. She explained that the company reduces the temperature of the air well below zero to liquefy and separate the oxygen from the nitrogen and argon. Hericks said Oxygen liquefies at minus 297°, argon at minus 302° and Nitrogen at minus 320°. Because they liquefy at different temperatures the oxygen, nitrogen and argon can be separated, said Hericks.
Air Products stores the separated gases in huge refrigeration tanks, and sells the gases to industries such as steel mills, food freezers, health care providers, welding fabrication, nuclear industry, chemical industry and even farmers.
The company’s biggest customer is the nearby Arcelor Mittal Steel, which burns oxygen from Air Products in the blast furnaces, and uses nitrogen in the steel making process. While Air Products uses pipelines to supply the steel mill next door, the company maintains a fleet of trucks to ship liquid gases to other customers.
Dawson talked about the different careers opportunities available in manufacturing plants like Air Products and some of the firms that supply it. Noting that a number of the Max Hayes students were in the school’s welding program, Dawson talked about the need for good welders.
Dawson said Air Products has plants in all fifty states and fifty countries around the world. Dawson said the company hires people it feels has potential, a certain skill set, and mechanical aptitude. He said there is no school for air separation. He said the training and teaching opportunities are unlimited. A number of career opportunities at the plant include truck mechanics, professional drivers, instrument control, chemical and mechanical engineers, machine operators and administrative support.
He explained that some of the jobs are physically demanding such as climbing big 200-foot tall tanks to change a valve. The company maintains a huge supply of spare parts and tools which workers use to repair the machinery in the plant. Dawson explains that while Air Products uses the newest and best equipment, the plant runs continuously so employees must often improvise to keep things going. He said jobs with companies that supply machines and parts to Air Products include Precision Machining and Computer Aided Design that some of the students were taking at Max Hayes.
For the students taking auto mechanics, Dawson noted the company has a fleet which runs over 53 million miles a year. The special $250,00 trucks that carry the liquid gases must be maintained. Larry Glavic, a mechanic for 38 years at Air Products, told students it is a wonderful career where to keep the trucks in optimum condition one needs to be a “jack of all trades.”