TSTC Welding Technology Student Acquires New Skills

(WACO, Texas) – Emily Sanford did not pick up a welding torch until she was a student at Madisonville High School in East Texas. During that time, she did a lot of gas metal arc welding.

“I was raised around 4-H and FFA, but it was not welding at all,” she said. “None of my family are welders. I got introduced to it my freshman year of high school.”

Sanford said that she was not sure what she wanted to do after high school. But, she said her agriculture teachers played a role in convincing her to visit TSTC’s Waco campus and apply for the Welding Technology program.

“I have not regretted my decision at all,” she said.

One of the instructors she met on her campus tour was Carl Wilmeth, a lead instructor in TSTC’s Welding Technology program.

“Emily projects self-confidence, authority and enthusiasm in all things that she has done here at TSTC,” he said. “I would be thrilled to have more students like her in the welding program. Emily shows strong self-management in all her welding objectives.”

Sanford chose TSTC because of its affordability and Welding Technology program classes in automation and metallurgy. She also liked the college’s Money-Back Guarantee program, which enables students who sign up with Career Services during their first semester in five selected programs to participate in workshops. If the students do not have a job in their field within six months of graduation, they receive back their out-of-pocket tuition.

Sanford also wanted to learn tungsten inert gas welding while at TSTC.

“It is a cleaner process.  It might cost more in materials,  but you can make more money with it,” she said.

Sanford is scheduled to complete classes this fall for an Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology. In the spring, she plans to study for an advanced structural and pipe welding certification.

After graduating from TSTC and entering the workplace, Sanford said she wants to become a certified welding inspector, become an instructor or own her own business.

“Her training, coupled with her interest in learning, the attention to detail and willingness to go the extra mile to get the job done, are all qualities that the welding industry employers are looking for,” said Richard Larson, an instructor in TSTC’s Welding Technology program. “She will be a great success in whatever career path she chooses in the welding industry.”

Texas had more than 50,000 brazers, cutters, solderers and welders making an annual mean wage of $46,940 in May 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Such jobs are projected to increase to about 452,500 by 2029, according to the agency.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu. 

TSTC instructors prepare for new EMT, paramedic students

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – Texas State Technical College is preparing for the next group of emergency medical technician and paramedic students.

TSTC Emergency Medical Services instructor Richard Sharp said students who recently completed the program had a 100 percent passing rate on the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians certification exam, and each graduate found employment. This spring, a new group of students will begin their training.

“An entry-level EMT can expect to make $30,000 to $35,000 in their first year,” Sharp said. “An entry-level paramedic can expect to make in excess of $45,000 to $50,000 a year.”

The program is offered both online and with in-person lab sessions. Sharp said students will have opportunities for live discussions and lectures online each week.

“We have implemented all CDC guidelines when students are on campus to protect the student, their family and any patients they may encounter,” Sharp said of lab sessions.

The EMT certificate is a two-semester program. The first semester covers the core EMT courses that allow students to sit for National Registry certification. The second semester has two online courses, including medical terminology, anatomy and physiology.

A student must be certified as an EMT in Texas and be selected for the paramedic program, Sharp said.

“Once selected, the student will complete an additional three semesters of core classes and general education if attempting to earn an associate degree” he said. “At the completion of the didactic portion, the student will undergo one semester of capstone. The capstone semester places the student with a seasoned paramedic in an internship where the student will function as a paramedic. After successfully completing the internship, the student will be eligible to test for the National Registry paramedic certification.”

Sharp said the program is patient-centered, with a focus on providing competent EMTs and paramedics to the EMS industry in Texas.

Sharp is a 20-year veteran of 911 ambulance response as a paramedic. Timothy Scalley, a current paramedic/flight paramedic, is also an instructor in the program.

Sharp said students interested in the program may contact him at 325-203-2458 to learn about the enrollment process.

For more information, visit https://www.tstc.edu/programs/EmergencyMedicalServices.

TSTC Alumnus Inspired by Electricity

(WACO, Texas) – Brad Bodine’s exposure to electrical work happened early on since his grandfather was an electrician and owned his business. 

Today, Bodine is director of field services at Saber Power Services in Rosharon in Brazoria County. The Texas State Technical College graduate primarily works in the company’s testing group.

“In the testing world, we are at the customer’s mercy when they can turn power off,” he said. “They cannot do it during normal production hours. It is not a super-easy job, it is not in the air conditioning,  and you have to be ready and willing to work.”

The company specializes in electrical services for industrial and commercial businesses, including data centers and refineries. He said the company is involved with efforts to help Southern Louisiana recover from Hurricane Laura.

“In a lot of the places that are really hard-hit, our construction team is doing a lot on the pole work, distribution lines and transmission lines,” Bodine said. “But on the testing side, when the switch gear floods and it is damaged from water, we clean it up and test it and recondition it.”

The company has an aggressive five-year growth plan to expand operations.

“I am helping to oversee and grow new offices,” Bodine said. “It is everything from helping sales to overseeing the financials and making sure we are going in the right direction with all our offices.”

Bodine said the electrical field is great to pursue because of the job security. 

“Electricity is not going anywhere,” he said. “It is a necessity that is the last thing most people give up.”

Paul Beaver, Saber’s director of project development and training and a TSTC alumnus, said the company has a challenge in filling senior- and upper-level technician positions when they become open. He attributes this to a shortage of people going into the electrical field.

“Everybody has it in their heads that they can just get a two-year degree and they will not make money,” Beaver said. “They are horribly mistaken with that.”

The company has hired several TSTC graduates from the Waco campus, including recently for its San Antonio office, said Dan Bateman, TSTC’s statewide chair of the Generation, Transmission and Distribution department.  

Bodine said he sees the company working more in the future with TSTC’s Fort Bend County campus because it also offers the Electrical Power and Controls program and is close to its headquarters.

Jonathan Bonkoske, lead instructor of TSTC’s Electrical Power and Controls program in Fort Bend County, said geography is a benefit to students.

“I have been noticing students are wanting more to stay close to home and not go and move out and do a lot of travel,” he said. “They want to stay close to home base.”

Bodine said he knew when he was a student at Teague High School that attending a four-year university was not for him. After attending another two-year college, Bodine enrolled at TSTC’s Waco campus. He received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Electrical Power and Controls in 1998.

During Bodine’s time at TSTC, he did cooperative work on weekends and holidays at Shermco Industries in Irving.

“It gave me 100 percent an idea of what I am getting into,” he said.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.

TSTC Alumnus Pursues Video Game Industry

(WACO, Texas) – Joshua Dickens grew up in Clifton and studied music at a two-year community college.

“I still enjoy music,” he said. “But for me, now it’s something I enjoy doing with friends, with my family, that type of thing. It is not something I am trying to make money on in a career.”

After graduating and working a few years, Dickens wanted to do something different. He enrolled at Texas State Technical College’s Waco campus and graduated in 2018 with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Programming.

“TSTC gave me the perfect background as far as computer programming went,” Dickens said.

Dickens began work at Sickhead Games in Dallas as an intern programmer in fall 2018. In early 2019, he was promoted to a game programmer position.

Susie Watkins, a TSTC Computer Programming Technology instructor, said the degree is the first step in becoming a video game programmer.

“It introduces them (the students) to the industry-standard languages for game programming,” she said.

Dickens’ work involves taking video game components that work on a computer and transitioning them to game console and smartphone platforms.  He has been involved in less than 10 projects so far, even as he works remotely now at his home in McGregor during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dickens said people interested in the video game industry should have an interest in mathematics and physics, a willingness to learn, and good communication skills.  He said potential employers do not want to see class projects, but rather what students have created on their own.

“They are looking for people to push the industry,” Dickens said.

Dickens began researching employers and jobs during his last two semesters at TSTC. He also attended video gaming conferences in Austin and Dallas to meet people in the industry.

“That kind of gave me a better understanding of what I was jumping into to get a better mindset,” he said.

He found Sickhead Games through LinkedIn.

“When I got hired with them, they were a team of four people,” Dickens said. “I basically made the case that I am very new, it is my first gaming job, but I have a portfolio of things I have done already.”

Texas has more than 260 video game companies, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Video game industry workers earn an average of $111,559 annually, according to the association.

“Gaming is a multimillion-dollar industry, and the skills learned are very transferable  and in high demand,” Watkins said. “Interactive 3D engineers and the programmers designing them open up the use of virtual reality, augmented reality and real-time 3D visualization to areas outside of gaming, which include consumer applications, business training and industrial manufacturing.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu. 

TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology Program in Williamson County Ready to Fill Area Jobs

(HUTTO, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s Precision Machining Technology program has started using a supplemental curriculum from the National Tool &Machining Association this fall to teach students.

Darren Block, TSTC’s statewide program lead, said students will get a more thorough education in machining, combined with the professional knowledge that faculty members bring to labs and lectures.

The program is using a hybrid teaching format for classes, with some being online and others involving in-person lab work.

Block is feeling good about machining jobs in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If it is man-made, we had our hands on it,” he said.

Waggoner Manufacturing Inc. in Round Rock manufactures and services aluminum, machined plastic, and stainless steel components and parts for the worldwide semiconductor automation and communication industries. 

Michael Wohlford, the company’s plant manager, said high school students, and those who want a career change, should have a personal appreciation for machining.

“They can watch YouTube videos and see firsthand how the CNC (computer numerical controlled) machines work, and they can have stars in their eyes and say it’s really cool and they would want to learn how to get into that,” Wohlford said.

He said the company likes to have job applicants who already have experience working with CNC machines in machine shops. New hires are trained in the company’s way of doing work.

Mark Thomas, president and chief executive officer of the Taylor Economic Development Corp., has reason to be optimistic about the future.

“We have had many projects, from small companies all the way to larger ones, that would love to have some level of comfort that they can hire machinists if they moved to our area,” he said.

Thomas said there is promise for the 750-acre RCR Taylor Logistics Park west of the city. The industrial park offers Union Pacific and BNSF rail service and has Foreign Trade Zone, Opportunity Zone and Triple Freeport designations.

“Our expectation is there will be advanced manufacturing and potential suppliers that we have already been talking to coming into that rail park,” Thomas said. “If we can say there is a training capacity for graduates or there are workers out there that need good jobs, any of these we can put to a good advantage to create jobs in the Taylor area.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.

TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology Program Ready to Fill Area Jobs

(RED OAK, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s Precision Machining Technology program at the North Texas campus this fall has started using a supplemental curriculum from the National Tool & Machining Association to teach students.

Darren Block, TSTC’s statewide lead program instructor, said the curriculum will give students a more thorough education in machining. That, combined with the professional knowledge of faculty members, will help program graduates be more competitive for area jobs. 

In the 16-county area that Workforce Solutions North Central Texas covers, there are more than 8,200 machinists making an hourly wage of between $13 and $25 an hour.

Information from Workforce Solutions indicates that companies posted more than 1,900 listings since Jan. 1, 2020, for jobs in machining-related fields. Some of the employers with the highest number of job postings include Amazon, Cushman & Wakefield, Sabre Industries Inc. and RPO International.

Area economic development and industrial leaders said TSTC is essential for economic growth.

“We are very supportive of what TSTC is doing and the future employees they are teaching and turning out,” said Warren Ketteman, senior director of economic development for the city of Waxahachie.

Ketteman has been making business retention visits to some of the city’s companies and has walked away encouraged about the future.

“Almost every one of the manufacturing companies are hiring,” he said. “When COVID-19 first hit, some had furloughs. But all those people are back, and they are hiring more people. Business is good.”

Grady Easdon, economic development manager for the city of Cleburne, said several existing companies are hiring, and potential ones are eyeing the city because of affordable land costs and a lower cost of living.

Easdon credits Cleburne High School’s career and technical education program for providing opportunities for students.

“They have really developed strong partnerships with our local manufacturing companies and various industries around the area to develop intern programs and offer tours,” Easdon said. “It is just whatever they need to get students interested in pursuing the careers there.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.

TSTC Basic Web Design online program invites rapid learning

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College recently introduced the Rapid Industry Skills and Employability, or RISE, program that allows students to train for a new job in as little as 7 1/2 weeks. Upon completion, students receive an Occupational Skills Award, which gives them the credentials to head off into their new career.

One of the RISE programs is Basic Web Design. The online program teaches students the basics of interface design and web programming.

Statewide department chair Shannon Ferguson and lead instructor David Trower discussed the benefits and components of the accelerated curriculum.

“Students will learn basic HTML and CSS skills so they can do editing of existing (computer) code and write some new code themselves,” Trower said. “They will also be given an introduction to JavaScript as a client-side language to manipulate HTML and CSS inside the web browser.”

The program also touches on other aspects that average users never know are happening behind the scenes of the web pages they visit.

“Students learn how to create the user interface of websites, using wire frames and mock-ups created in Adobe XD and Adobe Photoshop,” he said. “Finally, they learn the development life cycle of web design, and how to use WordPress to create blog posts, pages, and basic WordPress administration.”

Despite being online, students in this program can expect to receive the hands-on support that TSTC is known for.

“The instructors of the Web Design and Development department are firmly committed to our students in providing them the same support that we provided our students when we were face to face,” Trower said. “We have continued our open-door policy to our students through virtual meetings, video conferences, email, Google Hangouts, and videos. We pride ourselves on being accessible to our students outside of the classroom.”

Ferguson reiterated the importance of communication between student and instructor.

“We constantly encourage our students to stay in regular communication with us,” he said. “We offer our students engagement opportunities by providing weekly question-and-answer forums, live virtual sessions, virtual office hours, and rapid response to students’ questions and inquiries. Beyond that, we monitor student activity and reach out to our students at the earliest signs of struggles.”

He added that the e-learning format offers a new level of convenience for many students.

“An online aspect opens the door to students to take our program where they are,” he said. “They are not limited by geography, time of day, or life circumstances. Our online program gives them the flexibility to work our program into their busy schedules.”

To learn more about the Basic Web Design Occupational Skills Award, visit https://www.tstc.edu/programslist/rise.

Company upgrade leads Rowlette to TSTC program

(ABILENE, Texas) – Watching a multimillion dollar upgrade at his current workplace, Andrew Rowlette wanted to learn more about electrical systems.

The U.S. Air Force veteran works for Cargill Animal Nutrition in Abilene. He also started his fourth semester in Texas State Technical College’s Electrical Power and Controls program this fall.

“I was working for nine or 10 months, and the company decided to do a $2 million upgrade to the electrical system,” Rowlette said. “I was working with the contractor on some of the projects, and what he was doing sparked my interest.”

Rowlette did not have a background in electrical work, but a former co-worker and current TSTC instructor led him to the college.

TSTC Industrial Systems instructor Demetri Jones told him about the program and encouraged him to broaden his  knowledge.

“You really don’t realize how much electrical systems work in our daily lives,” Rowlette said. “I was really interested in that aspect of the program.”

Rowlette, who was a B-1 Bomber crew chief in the Air Force, said serving in the military helped him pay for college.

“I was able to get some free money and go to school to learn a new trade,” he said. “I took a year or so off before starting at TSTC.”

Rowlette said his employers are pleased that he is attending TSTC.

“It is helping me here, especially with some of the employees,” he said. “Some of them may not have the tech skills to solve a problem quickly. I can ask them if something is not working to look at another possible solution.”

Rowlette said he will continue to share what he learns at TSTC with his fellow employees.

“The best way to help someone is to pass on the knowledge,” he said.

TSTC offers a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree in Electrical Power and Controls at the Abilene, Fort Bend County, North Texas and Waco campuses.

For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

Surgical Technology hybrid learning underway at TSTC

Surgical technology is a rapidly growing field that is expected to rise in demand through at least 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This well-paying career entails getting front and center in an operating room to help a surgeon with necessities such as cutting sutures, transporting patients and keeping track of equipment in the operating room.

Program director Anna San Pedro discussed the Surgical Technology program offered at Texas State Technical College, as well as some of the new virtual implementations that have been added to comply with TSTC’s COVID-19 safety regulations.

“We are currently offering all our didactic instruction in an online format utilizing Webex for synchronous instruction,” she said. “The majority of the lab instruction is done face to face in our lab. However, we are experimenting with doing some virtual labs to see how well students can adapt to learning online versus traditional face-to-face skills training.”

The new methods of learning take time to get used to.

“Like anything that is new, it takes time to adjust,” she said. “Nevertheless, I am pleasantly surprised with how well students and faculty are adapting to the change and the use of technology.”

San Pedro noted that the new format has allowed for more flexibility for students who have other responsibilities outside of school.

“By moving to a hybrid format, students have greater flexibility in their schedule,” she said. “This has been helpful especially to students who live in the upper valley, and for students who work or have family commitments.”

Even though students participate in virtual labs remotely, the quality of curriculum is not diminished.

“Our virtual labs introduce various skills through online demonstrations and video resources,” she said. “This is followed with face-to-face labs, where the students demonstrate and practice these skills under strict safety guidelines.”

Taryn Crow, who recently received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Surgical Technology, raved about the support system in the program.

“My instructors were very helpful in every way possible,” she said. “When you know you want to study something specific and are given a whole layout designed to show you exactly what you need to take to get there, it’s life-changing. TSTC has incredible resources to help guide and aid you through your time in college so that you are better prepared to take on the world.”

TSTC’s Surgical Technology program accepts 30 students every year in the fall semester. To learn more, visit https://www.tstc.edu/programs/SurgicalTechnology.

Safety is top priority for TSTC Culinary Arts

Texas State Technical College has implemented a hybrid learning format as part of the many safety regulations being followed during the ongoing pandemic.

However, even with more sessions being taught online, programs like Culinary Arts are still managing to give students the hands-on learning that TSTC has become known for.

“Every week students meet their hands-on training,” said Culinary Arts instructor Ayla Cabarubio. “While completing an on-campus lab, students are provided with their own designated workspace, which allows for social distancing standards to be met.”

Lead Culinary Arts instructor Emma Creps mentioned a positive aspect of the new way of learning.

“The class sizes are smaller in order to maintain social distancing, and the good thing about that is that students get more time from the instructor, whereas before the instructor had to split their time with a larger group.”

Safety has been important at TSTC throughout the coronavirus outbreak, and the safety standards do not stop once students leave the room.

“After labs are completed and the students have exited the building, the lab space is cleaned and sanitized by the instructor,” said Cabarubio. “Maintaining a clean and safe lab environment is our top priority.”

Although Culinary Arts students are required to participate in labs on campus, a large amount of their coursework is done remotely.

“All the coursework for the program is now uploaded to Moodle,” Cabarubio said. “This allows flexibility with the lecture aspect of the course, allowing students to complete those assessments remotely.”

Virtual labs are also being implemented in the program, with the instructor on campus and the students in their own kitchens.

“The instructor conducts the class through Google Meet,” Creps said. “Students are provided the ingredients for their labs. Pickups are done once a week, and ingredients they get are based on the class they are in. Students follow along virtually as the instructor demonstrates how to make a product, such as bread rolls, croissants, filleting a fish, and even the different ways to cook fish.”

Students are adapting well to the new way of learning.

“Students seem to be adjusting to the new learning environment,” Cabarubio said. “After the first week, they got a feel for the course structure, and they began making it part of their routine.”

To learn more about TSTC’s Culinary Arts program, visit https://www.tstc.edu/programs/CulinaryArts.


Photo caption: Culinary Arts instructors prepping for their virtual lab. (Photo courtesy of TSTC.)