ROP grads prep for bright futures in fuels and petrochemicals industries

Dozens of students graduated from the Regional Occupational Program at Chevron Richmond on May 9. (All photos by Mike Aldax)

By Mike Aldax

Rumil Mitchell signed up for the Regional Occupational Program (ROP) because he wanted a change in his life and career trajectory. Eighteen weeks later, Mitchell not only graduated from the program, he’s about to embark upon his first job as operator trainee at Chevron Richmond.

Mitchell’s classmate, 31-year-old Cameron, had a similar reason to join the ROP, which preps participants for high-demand careers in the fuels and petrochemicals industries.

“I never graduated high school,” Cameron said. “I have an 8th grade education. So this is the first time I actually completed something. It’s a big step and I’m ready to move forward with my life.”

Cameron and Rumil were among dozens of inspiring participants to graduate from ROP in an inspirational ceremony at Chevron Richmond on May 9.

Cameron celebrates graduating from the ROP.

Coming at no cost to participants, the ROP is an 18-week training program offered twice annually that is funded by Chevron Richmond and implemented by the Contra Costa County Office of Education. The program provides a pipeline for local residents to high-demand careers. Offering both day and evening courses, the program has launched hundreds of careers at industrial facilities in over 40 years, including scores at Chevron Richmond.

Among those success stories is Malcolm Synigal, who graduated from the program in 1994, when it operated out of Kennedy High School. Synigal went on to enjoy a long career at Shell in Martinez, retiring eight years ago.

“Six of us in that class got hired at Shell,” he said. “The ROP instructors gave us the day off to go pass a test. I did 22 years at Shell and retired in 2016.”

At the celebration, Synigal watched with great pride as his grandson, 22-year-old Terrence Austin, graduated from the very same program.

“You can do a lot with your life with this training. Great opportunities, great benefits and everything else.”

That was enough to convince his grandson to join.

“You can do a lot with your life with this training. Great opportunities, great benefits and everything else.”

“I already wanted to get into the field,” Terrence said. “This class gives me a step up, makes it easier for me to get into the industry.”

Of course, the ROP isn’t a walk in the park.

“There’s a good amount of homework,” Terrence said. “But it’s fun, and I’m sad that it’s over.”

Terrence is currently applying to all Bay Area refineries, but hopes to land a job at Chevron Richmond.

“They’re a great company and offer great benefits,” he said. “And I like this refinery. I’ve learned a lot about it.”

Graduates offer a variety of reasons for joining the ROP, but they collectively credit their motivational instructor Jay Lloyd for guiding them to success. Mitchell says Lloyd believed in him before he believed in himself. Lloyd helped him come out of his shell.

“I’m grateful for him,” he said. “if it wasn’t for Jay, I wouldn’t have completed this class.”

Lloyd is a 12-year Chevron employee and Detroit native who seized opportunities to rise out of poverty. He puts the onus on graduates to rise to the occasion.

Jay Lloyd (right) poses with new ROP graduate Will Mckelvy and his daughter.

“I expect everybody that comes through the program to be where [Mitchell] is now,” Lloyd said. “When they come to class, a lot of the time people don’t understand the power that they hold.”

Students often come with false narratives fed to them since they were young about their capabilities, Lloyd said.

“What they go through in life can cloud their vision and genius,” he said. “So my job is to go in there, open that up, let me clean out the trash that might have cluttered you, so you can see clearly what opportunities exist.”

In addition to technical education, the ROP trains students on leadership, communications and safety. They receive professional help in drafting their resume and undergoing a successful job interview.

While job placements aren’t guaranteed following the program, students leave “with a sense of completion,” Lloyd said.

“It’s an opportunity to be looked at more favorably at jobs in the Bay Area and beyond, not just energy companies but elsewhere,” he said. “When you leave here, you leave with a sense of ability.”

Signups are currently open for the next 18-week ROP course. The deadline to apply is May 24, and the first day of class is July 23. To apply and for more information, visit here.