Process Technology — good jobs and pay

What is Process Technology? Have you ever wondered who makes ethanol, anhydrous ammonia, feed stuffs or biodiesel? Process technicians make this happen. They keep these multimillion dollar companies running safely, efficiently, and ensure environmentally friendly processes. Technicians take raw materials like corn, soybeans, natural gas and even air and process them into products we use or consume in some way all the time, by utilizing complex technology.

I am Shadd Scharf, the new program coordinator and instructor for Process Technology at Iowa Central Community College, and I am looking to give industry what it so badly wants and needs, which is a fresh and highly skilled work force. This knowledge-hungry industry boom that is taking place right here in Webster County and several locations across the Midwest, wants, needs, and supports this program, which is available right here in Fort Dodge. With the partnerships that have been built, we strive to obtain additional types of process jobs which our graduates will be qualified to do.

Iowa Central is offering a wide variety of hands-on and useful training with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Process Technology. Students will learn a wide variety of cooling tower systems, how they work, their chemistry, and the need for such a system in a process plant. We will also cover various boiler systems from low pressure to high pressure, fire tube boilers verses water tube boilers, and how to operate and monitor the boiler systems in a safe manner. We will also look at why plants monitor the items they do while boilers are in operation, as well as the downstream affects. With all of the ethanol around the Midwest, we will cover fermentation, distillation and evaporation, how these play their role in making ethanol and why we need these steps in the process. We plan to make some fun and interesting lab projects to see how this works and understand why things happen, as we do projects and see systems in operation on field trips to various facilities. We will also be covering byproducts of the ethanol process and the different ways to make them useful to the world. We plan to get a training device for DCS (Distributed Control System) to greatly increase operators’ trouble shooting capabilities, rather than discuss and train in a mock setting. In addition to all the processes, we will also learn how to process, strip, or modify discharge streams, making them environmentally safe, whether it be in liquid, solid, or gas form. With the strong emphasis on state controlled parameters, and the repercussions for violations in the environmental world because of the negative downstream effects to our environment, this portion of the degree is extremely vital.

The program is made up of a wide variety of technology and troubleshooting techniques taught in a hands-on manner, with classroom labs and involving some of the local companies who are willing to allow us into their process plants. This will give students the real-life exposure to make a well-rounded process technician. Knowing the different systems that intertwine all of the different processes, and making graduates a very hot commodity to the starving work force are the key ingredients in supplying our quickly expanding industry. Graduates will know how things like cooling, steam, and distillation systems all work and how they can and will give them a job where no two days are the same and make for a challenging, rewarding, and good-paying job.

The development of the Process Technology Program came from a request from Koch Fertilizer. Iowa Central invited companies that may have similar needs to discuss the specific skills that are needed. “I believe that we have put together a program that will give individuals great opportunities to build a career with great companies right here within this region,” said Neale Adams, dean of Business and Industrial Technology. With the growing demand for individuals with these skills, and with Cargill and CJ Bio America establishing facilities in Webster County, it is even more important that we work to create a skilled work force.

Industry in this region has greatly supported the establishment of this program with insight into their process, the type of equipment they use, and the specific skills that are needed to work in the environment. It was also established that to create a well-rounded individual, they need to have math and communication skills on top of a technical aptitude. Course work surrounding these areas is also embedded into the curriculum.

The Process Technology Program is open to any individual who wants to develop a well-paying career opportunity, one who is open to a challenge, and is willing to work hard. Individuals can still enroll in the program for the fall semester, and scholarships are available. For more information, contact Shadd Scharf at 574-1917 or email

Shadd Scharf is the new program coordinator and instructor for Process Technology at Iowa Central Community College.