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San Jacinto College
News Release
Friday, August 12, 2011

SJC offers training to transition laid-off aerospace engineers into new industry


PASADENA, Texas — After 11 years working as a NASA aerospace engineer, Reed Watson is now training for employment within the oil and gas industry after being laid off last year.


"The biggest roadblock for me is all my experience in aerospace," said Watson. "They (employers) look at me and think 'forget that guy, he's too technical for what we need.’ I just want them to give me an opportunity to prove myself as an asset."


Watson, along with three other former engineers, Lorenzo Calloway, Roland Bland and Philip Baker, are part of a group who endured massive layoffs with NASA shuttle contractors through 2009 and 2010, and are now training to obtain certificates that industry employers often look for in potential hires. It was by chance that they found the free grant-funded Programmable Logics Controllers (PLC) course offered through San Jacinto College’s Continuing and Professional Development (CPD) division.


"Two months ago, I had been searching for PLC courses, and was just about to pay $1,700 for one at a university," said Bland. "Then I happened to find out through the Aerospace Transition Center that this free training was here at San Jacinto College."


Chuck Burnett, CPD lead instructor, said the one-week course provides the certificate that everyone in the industry wants to see on a résumé. Burnett said the industry would gain from the knowledge and experience of the engineers who have been laid off from NASA.


"Out in the field, one of their favorite sayings is, 'this isn't rocket science; let's get this done and make some money,’” said Burnett. "But these men actually are rocket scientists, and can serve as a great asset to the industry. The average person comes into this class and spends two hours on a traffic light intersection programming exam. These guys did it within 30 minutes. It is because of what these men have done at NASA that we now have the current PLC systems used in the oil and gas industry."


After completing the PLC course at San Jacinto College, the four men will continue training to gain Project Management Professional certification.


"We're used to reducing mass to lift systems up in the air to save money and resources; we are troubleshooters," said Calloway. "We'll gladly lend these skills to the oil and gas industry if they'll give us a chance."


San Jacinto College offers a variety of CPD short-term courses designed to provide the required certificates for employment in surrounding industries like oil and gas, manufacturing and petrochemical. Many are funded through the U.S. Department of Labor High Growth and Emerging Industries (HGEI) grant and are free of charge for those who qualify.


Additional class dates include Aug. 15- Oct. 6 and Nov. 7- Jan. 12 for Industrial Automation Technician, Oct. 31- Nov. 4 and additional dates to come for Programmable Logic Controllers, and Sept. 8- Oct. 12 and Jan. 23- Feb. 21 for CNC Operator.


For more information on training courses offered through San Jacinto College Continuing and Professional Development, contact Ellen Bay at 281-501-0021 or, or Deborah Johnson at 281-478-3690 or


Photo: (left to right) Former aerospace engineers Roland Bland, Reed Watson, Philip Baker, and Lorenzo Calloway train for Programmable Logics Controllers (PLC) certificates with San Jacinto College Continuing and Professional Development lead instructor, Chuck Burnett. Photo credit: Jeannie Peng-Armao, San Jacinto College marketing department.


About San Jacinto College: Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for 50 years. The College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of more than 29,000 students in over 140 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career-track choices. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.


For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit, or find us on Facebook at

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