IDEA San Benito students announce plans to attend TSTC

(SAN BENITO, Texas) – Family and friends of 26 IDEA San Benito seniors learned that Texas State Technical College would be the students’ school of choice beginning this fall.

The high school students revealed their decision to attend TSTC during the annual college signing day celebration earlier this month.

“Most of the students said they wanted to attend TSTC for Automotive Technology, Nursing and Dental Hygiene,” said Casey Theivagt, the school’s director of college counseling. “They chose TSTC because it was close to home for them.”

The IDEA Public School system, which was founded in 1998, has a goal for students to enter the first year of college without needing remedial courses in any area. Theivagt said that goal is reached on an annual basis.

“We serve the underserved and low-income students of our communities. We are proud to have a 100% college articulation rate with our students,” she said.

The college signing day event is a way for students to celebrate their college choice while also meeting the school’s goal of having every student prepared for college.

Theivagt said students are required to submit six college applications during their senior year.

“They choose the schools in which to apply, and they choose the school they want to attend,” she said.

Past students have chosen TSTC because of the hands-on programs. Theivagt said students have shown interest in several programs, including Aircraft Airframe Technology, Automotive Technology, Dental Hygiene, Nursing and Wind Energy Technology.

“TSTC offers students a wide range of options,” she said.

Cledia Hernandez, TSTC’s Harlingen provost, said working with IDEA San Benito and other school districts to attract students pays off when she sees them enter the workforce.

“For many years, students believed their only option in higher education was a four-year degree,” she said. “It is great to see the awareness of the benefits and value of technical careers. With 70% of Texas jobs requiring a technical degree, we are excited to work with our secondary education partners to help students transition to our technical programs and prepare them to enter the workforce.”

Theivagt said having TSTC close to its campus is also helpful.

“Students who have toured the campus love what they see,” she said. “They have enjoyed attending events like the open house. The students have had a chance to visit some programs, and that helped them make their choice.”

Registration for the fall semester is underway. Scholarships are available. For more information, visit tstc.edu.

Childhood passion turns into career for TSTC student

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – From an early age, David Lopez-Cortez showed an interest in cars.

The graduate of ATEMS High School knew by the age of five that he wanted to work on vehicles for a living. Lopez-Cortez said his passion started by playing with Hot Wheels toy cars at his childhood home.

Lopez-Cortez wants to turn that passion into a career by earning an Associate of Applied Science degree in Automotive Technology at Texas State Technical College.

“I have always been interested in cars and how they work,” he said. “I did not think it would end up being a career option, but I am happy I made this choice.”

Lopez-Cortez’ love for cars continues after class when he is working at an oil change service in Abilene.

“I am constantly helping people at work and learning what other people do,” he said. “I also have friends who want me to help them with their cars when I am at home.”

TSTC was a perfect fit for Lopez-Cortez, and enrolling was a decision that he easily made, thanks to his mother.

“My mom went to culinary school at TSTC in Sweetwater and was hired as the head chef at the Hilton in Abilene,” he said. “She later opened her own restaurant and is now at home. She is still the best chef I know.”

Lopez-Cortez said his mother told him that TSTC would be a good place to learn a trade.

“She said the environment is small and simple. Everyone on the campus wants you to succeed,” he said of his mother’s time at TSTC. “That has not changed today.”

The biggest difference between his time at TSTC and his mother’s is the style of learning. Lopez-Cortez completed many class assignments online through remote learning. When he is in the lab, things change.

“This is a totally different learning environment. Each of us in class has our own vehicle project and bay,” he said while standing in his bay, preparing to mount a tire.

Lopez-Cortez also likes the class size and attention that classmates receive from instructor Gerod Strother.

“We are always willing to help each other with projects,” he said. “Gerod makes you feel confident in your decisions, but he is also there when you have a problem. He wants you to succeed.”

Strother said Lopez-Cortez and his classmates have shown a passion to learn.

“Everyone is willing to put in the effort to learn to be the best they can. It is good to see these students training to enter the workforce,” he said.

According to onetonline.org, auto technician/mechanic positions will continue to increase in Texas. The online site forecasts that an additional 6,610 mechanics will be needed by 2028.

Lopez-Cortez plans to use his newfound knowledge in Abilene.

“I want to open and own my own performance car shop,” he said. “I know there are marketing and business plans to get ready, but this is preparing me for a career.”

TSTC is setting him up for success, something that Lopez-Cortez did not realize when he started the program earlier this year.

“TSTC offers you all the tools you need for a career, and they even have the tools in the shop you can use to learn the trade,” he said. “This has been the best experience of my life.”

Registration for the fall semester is underway. Scholarships are available. For more information, visit tstc.edu.

TSTC graduate plans to expand knowledge this fall

(WACO, Texas) – Zachary Muth is planning to continue his education in the fall.

Muth, who graduated from Texas State Technical College’s Diesel Equipment Technology program last month, wants to add an occupational skills award in welding to his associate degree.

“I plan to return this fall because the more skills I have, the better my chances of being hired,” he said. “I am currently looking at all of my options in the diesel field.”

Muth likes the options because they have one thing in common.

“I have always liked working with my hands. I was never a big fan of sitting behind a desk,” he said.

Muth was drawn to TSTC after attending an open house suggested by his high school English teacher.

“I have always been interested in cars, but I wanted to do that more as a hobby,” he said. “I was looking for a career, and after touring the diesel program, I could see myself doing this as a career.”

Entering his final semester, Muth said he overcame the challenge of motivating himself to complete online work. He said the best part of his week is when he is in the lab, completing a task.

Having experienced instructors helped him overcome other obstacles.

“I was never into the electronics and how things may work. All of the instructors are great in understanding how you need help in some areas,” he said.

The instructors also help students by bringing in company representatives for job interview sessions.

“The instructors have so many different contacts. We had a company from Georgetown in here one day for interviews,” Muth said.

Muth said he is proud of completing his associate degree work and hopes other people look at TSTC for a career.

“If you have recruiters come to your campus, listen to what they have to say,” he said. “TSTC is a good launching point for a lot of hands-on skills.”

As for the fall, Muth is ready to learn a different trade in welding. The occupational skills award allows students to take a nine-week course to learn basic technical skills needed for an entry-level career.

“I am ready to learn a different skill to help me with a career,” he said. “I am excited to be part of the welding program and look forward to what I learn.”

For more information, visit tstc.edu.

TSTC graduate wins first place at Waco arts event

(WACO, Texas) – A Texas State Technical College graduate recently placed first in the Wacotown Chalk + Walk arts event sponsored by Creative Waco.

Shay MacMorran, of Waco, graduated in 2003 with an associate degree in Commercial Art and Advertising. She is currently a graphic designer at Winstar Marketing in Austin but works remotely from her home. The company specializes in apparel, promotional items, social media and web design.

What took place during the competition? 

A bunch of artists and businesses paired together, but businesses could pay for a certain artist. They worked together to make a design for the street or a wall.

I teamed up with LaSalle Shoppes to create a chalk design on Austin Avenue. They do antiques, so we decided to do an “I Love Lucy” crossover with “I Love LaSalle Shoppes.” There is specific street chalk we can use, and also spray paint chalk. You just get into a zone and just go. It’s big, but you have to spend several hours working on it.

Creative Waco and some other groups are working very hard to make the arts scene in Waco more visible. Artists are solitary creatures. You don’t really get out there and see other artists because you are working at home doing your thing. This is a way to bring everyone together.

I was confident, but there are about 50 other artists there. It was based on voting, so you do not know how people will vote. I chose a spot in the LuluBelle’s Market at Magnolia’s Silobration in October in Waco.

What is your job like? 

It’s a little different every day. Most of the time, it is laying out uniforms, but I also do a lot of T-shirt and logo designs.

We usually do a lot of things by Zoom, mostly because of the pandemic. We have quarterly team meetings where we have lunch and folks can come out and talk. It’s a small group, so we are all tight-knit. We talk by email. 

Because I work from home, I can home-school my son, work on personal art projects when I have extra time, and spend time with our dog. It is just a lot more freeing than working in an office. 

What factored into your decision to attend TSTC? 

I wanted to do something with art, and it just seemed like the best fit for me at the time. We didn’t have a lot of money for a huge school. TSTC gave me everything I needed to get started. I went in not knowing how to use Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator. I was just a traditional artist. I would always draw or paint. I use Adobe products every single day now.

What advice do you have for people interested in pursuing the design field? 

I think it would help to have a creative eye. Otherwise, it is going to be more difficult if you do not have one. Having the ability to take criticism without taking it personally is good.

 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website, graphic designers in Texas make a yearly median salary of more than $49,000. The state is projected to need more than 20,000 graphic designers by 2028, the third-highest number in the country.

TSTC offers an online associate degree in Visual Communication Technology. Students can gain hands-on experience in art direction, digital publishing and graphic design, and do a required commercial art and advertising internship.

Registration is underway for the fall, and scholarships are available. For more information, go to tstc.edu. 

TSTC Precision Machining Technology program prepares graduates for in-demand jobs

(RED OAK, Texas) – From smartphones to the hubcaps on vehicles, precision machining is a critical component of our lives.

“(Many human-made things would) not exist without a machine and its components,” said Nathan Cleveland, acting statewide lead in Texas State Technical College’s Precision Machining Technology program and associate provost at TSTC in Marshall.

Cleveland said high school students need to be more exposed to what precision machining is, along with its career stability and income potential. He said most students who enter TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology program usually know someone already in the industry. The program’s classes at the North Texas campus are taught at night.

Lyle Guinn, the lead instructor for TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology program in North Texas, said students entering the program should be good at spatial thinking, have a mechanical aptitude and understand geometry.

Cleveland said the kinds of jobs that program graduates want depend on the area of Texas where they want to live. He said while East Texas has many production jobs, the Houston area has many oil and gas industry jobs. The career niche that graduates shift into will factor into their income.

“A lot of it is where they (graduates) want to live, what kind of benefits they want and if they want to continue on in their education,” Guinn said. “A lot of the companies you go to work for as a machinist will continue to pay for your education.”

Companies that have sought machining workers in the last few months in North Texas include Amazon, Bridgestone/Firestone, Sabre Industries Inc. and FedEx, according to Workforce Solutions of North Central Texas.

Industrial engineering technologists and technicians have the highest hourly wage for experienced workers among machining-type jobs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area at more than $40, according to data from Workforce Solutions. The second-highest hourly wage for experienced workers is more than $39 for metal and plastic model makers.

Workforce Solutions’ 16-county area has more than 7,700 machinists and more than 6,600 metal and plastics machine tool cutting setters, operators and tenders.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website, computer numerical controlled tool programmers are making a yearly median salary of more than $57,000 in Texas. Jobs are concentrated in the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio areas.

TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Precision Machining Technology and a certificate of completion in Machining. 

Registration continues for the fall semester. Scholarships are available. For more information, go to tstc.edu.

TSTC Health Information Technology program ready to fill Valley jobs

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Health information technology enables people to work wherever they want to do their part to keep patients’ health care records organized.

Beyda Ramirez, an instructor in Texas State Technical College’s Health Information Technology program in Harlingen, said graduates do more than handle billing and coding. They also maintain the accuracy of electronic medical records and work with medical facilities’ clinical documentation improvement plans.

“The medical field is always updating and evolving and changing — and with us even more so, because we deal with data,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said interest in the medical field will help students succeed in the program.

“A lot of the students want to stay in the Rio Grande Valley,” she said. “We have students that have left for another city or state. Sometimes we have those students call us and say they have a job opening.”

Linda Gonzalez is a graduate of TSTC’s Health Information Technology program and is currently the marketing director of health information management at the Valley Baptist Health System. She leads her staff in all stages of electronic medical record keeping, including processing birth certificates. The work involves having staff available for both day and evening work.

Gonzalez said when working to fill vacant jobs, previous experience with medical records is beneficial. Valley Baptist, which has facilities in Brownsville, Harlingen, and Weslaco, has hired several TSTC graduates.

“As things have progressed, you don’t really have time for on-the-job training,” she said.

Gonzalez said people who handle medical coding have worked remotely for the last few years. The pandemic has changed where some staff members work, with some not even being in the Valley.

Gonzalez said pursuing health information technology is a great career option.

“There’s always going to be job security,” she said. “You will always need individuals to review the account and process for billing. That is a market I see that is very promising for any individual.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website, medical records specialists and health information technicians make a yearly median salary of more than $39,000 in Texas. Cameron and Hidalgo counties have more than 1,100 workers.

According to onetonline.org, the state will employ more than 20,000 medical records specialists and health technicians by 2028.

TSTC offers a Medical Office Specialist certificate and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Health Information Technology online. Students must complete the certificate first and meet grade requirements to move into the associate degree program, Ramirez said. The Health Information Technology program is backed by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management.

Registration continues for the fall, with scholarships available. For more information, go to tstc.edu.

TSTC Instrumentation Technology graduates play critical role in workforce

(WACO, Texas) – Instrumentation plays a critical role in the operation of oil refineries, petrochemical facilities, and power generation plants. Workers use programmable logic controllers, calibrate equipment, and maintain the control of flows, levels, temperatures, and pressures for production.

Many of Texas State Technical College’s Instrumentation Technology graduates either have jobs before they graduate or shortly thereafter.

Program faculty said they have noticed a change in hiring patterns during the pandemic, but companies are starting to reach back out to TSTC. Mike Martin, a faculty member in TSTC’s Instrumentation Technology program, said Celanese, Dow Chemical Co. and Phillips 66 are some of the companies that have hired TSTC graduates in the past.

“We still have students interviewing for jobs,” Martin said. “We have some waiting for final replies back from companies.”

Robert Lovelace, TSTC’s statewide lead in the Instrumentation Technology program, said graduates tend to go to work for refineries and power plants after graduation.

The Luminant Generation-owned Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant in Somervell County has hired several TSTC graduates. The plant employs about 1,300 employees and has two nuclear reactors.

Somervell County Judge Danny Chambers said Comanche Peak is a valuable asset to that area. The power plant pulls in workers not only from throughout the county but from neighboring counties as well. And those workers need some sort of education to handle the daily grind of producing power.

“When you get an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree, it opens doorways and leads to a better future,” Chambers said.

Chambers is familiar with TSTC, having taken Automotive Technology classes there himself. His son graduated from TSTC’s Electrical Power and Controls program in Waco.

Chambers said the county benefits from having the nuclear plant by way of property taxes, which the city of Glen Rose does not receive. But the city reaps the benefits of tax money as out-of-town workers sleep in hotels, eat in restaurants, buy gas and shop for groceries during planned plant outages.

“Without the power plant, Glen Rose would not be what it is now,” Chambers said.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website, power plant operators in Texas make a yearly median salary of more than $78,000. Petroleum pump system operators, refinery operators and gaugers in the state make a yearly median salary of more than $76,000. The state will need more than 13,000 workers by 2028.

The Instrumentation Technology program has over 100 students taking classes this summer. Students work toward an Associate of Applied Science degree in Instrumentation Technology. Martin said the students attracted to the program typically know someone who works in the industry.

Starting this fall, Instrumentation Technology students will be in labs for longer periods. Lovelace said seven of the program’s 12 classes will have lab time expanded by an hour with less lecture time. He said the program’s goal is to provide more hands-on experiences for students.

Instrumentation Technology is part of TSTC’s Money-Back Guarantee initiative, which enables students who do not find a job in their profession within six months of graduation to have their tuition refunded.

Registration continues for the fall, and scholarships are available. For more information, go to tstc.edu.

TSTC honors spring graduates with virtual celebration

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College honored 337 candidates for graduation during a spring virtual commencement celebration last month.

TSTC Chancellor and CEO Mike Reeser celebrated the graduates’ accomplishments with a video message.

“Throughout your time at TSTC, you strengthened yourself with the skills needed to make your life better and for those that matter most to you,” Reeser said.

Cledia Hernandez, TSTC’s provost in Harlingen, said graduates are ready for the next stage of their careers.

“You are fully trained and ready to go into our workforce. We know a lot of hard work and dedication went into that,” she said of the college experience. “Now, go out and impact the world.”

Many of the graduates thanked families, friends and instructors with messages posted on social media following the virtual celebration.

I just want to take the time to thank God, my mom, my brothers and my friend Cynthia for believing in me to get to where I am right now. The path will be long, but you will eventually get to where you want,” said Evelyn Davila, who earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Education and Training.

Abigail Cortez, who received an Associate of Science degree in Biology, said several people supported her during college.

“Thank you to my family and parents for supporting me, day in and day out, during this chapter of my life. I am beyond grateful for having such a strong support system throughout my journey,” she said. “This is just the beginning of what is yet to come, and I cannot wait to achieve it all.

Arick Ortiz also said he had a strong support system while attending TSTC.

“I’d like to thank my wife for her endless support, and our kids who keep us motivated to become better people every day,” said Ortiz, who earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Building Construction Technology.

Before the virtual celebration, graduates could pick up a graduation “swag bag” that included a TSTC diploma cover, travel mug and face mask.

Catherine Guardodo, who earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Management Technology, said her degree is just the beginning for her and other graduates.

“This is only just the beginning of my career, and I am ready for the next stage,” she said.

For more information, visit tstc.edu.

TSTC prepares students for Rio Grande Valley lineworker jobs

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Angel Toledo, lead instructor in Texas State Technical College’s Electrical Lineworker Technology program, spent the week cleaning up TSTC’s 12-acre pole yard at the corner of Rio Hondo Road and 29th Street in Harlingen.

The work involved moving overhead transformers to the yard and also making sure trucks are filled with diesel fuel. It is all in anticipation of the start of Monday’s summer semester.

The semester will be capped off with the graduation of the Harlingen program’s first Electrical Lineworker cohort, whose students are working toward certificates of completion.

“I am impressed because these students are doing an awesome job,” Toledo said. “Everyone is able to apply and understand the safety of the profession, which is number one.”

The summer graduates have the opportunity to sign up for a three-week commercial driver’s license course already covered in their tuition. The lessons are being taught on campus by Ancora Corporate Training, which is also teaching new Electrical Lineworker Technology graduates at the Fort Bend County, Marshall and Waco campuses.

Eric Carithers, TSTC’s statewide chair of the Distribution and Industrial Electrical Systems department, said three of the summer semester’s graduates will be selected to do a six-week paid internship at AEP. The graduates who prove that they have the know-how and passion for linework will be selected for the job, which will be based in the Rio Grande Valley.

Other Valley options for graduates are Magic Valley Electric Cooperative and the Brownsville Public Utilities Board.

Cleiri Quezada, senior communications and public relations coordinator at BPUB, said it is challenging to fill lineworker positions because a lot of applicants do not meet all of the job qualifications. She said BPUB looks for people who have high school diplomas or General Educational Development (GED) certificates, two years of experience in utility construction and a Texas commercial driver’s license. She said job candidates’ reliability and dedication are also measured.

Entry-level lineworkers start as apprentices at BPUB, she said.

“This is a great place to work, especially for people who are just graduating,” Quezada said. “This is a great place to gain experience and to grow in the company, especially in the position of lineworker.”

Harlingen’s Electrical Lineworker Technology program began last fall. The program has worked to build industry partnerships, some of which have yielded equipment for students to use.

“It has definitely met the expectations of what we were expecting in the area,” Carithers said.

TSTC also offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Electrical Lineworker Technology. TSTC’s Electrical Lineworker Technology is the only program of its kind south of Corpus Christi.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website, electrical power line installers and repairers in Texas make a yearly median salary of more than $58,000. Texas will need more than 13,800 workers by 2028.

Fall registration continues for all of TSTC’s programs. Scholarships are available. For more information, go to tstc.edu. 

TSTC Aviation Maintenance program eager to fill Texas jobs

(WACO, Texas) – As the aviation industry continues to grow in Texas, so does the need for more mechanics and technicians.

“The aviation maintenance industry is picking up steam really quickly,” said Robert Capps, Texas State Technical College’s statewide lead in the Aviation Maintenance program. “When COVID-19 hit, a lot of the airlines started temporarily mothballing airplanes. As air traffic is picking up, pulling them out of storage is a lot of work to keep them in regular service.”

Capps said a lot of aviation mechanics who left as the pandemic raged on took retirement packages or left the industry for other jobs. He said many of those workers will stay retired, making room for new workers.

Trim Aire Aviation in Mexia is currently searching for an aircraft structure mechanic and paying between $18 and $28 an hour, according to Indeed.com.

“Right now we are working on some applications that are finally coming in here,” said Buddy Miller, Trim Aire’s owner. 

In the past, Miller said it has taken a while to fill technician and mechanic positions. The business has 11 people working on airplanes, with five being licensed mechanics. The remaining workers are apprentices and helpers.

Miller said apprenticeships are a great way for people interested in the aviation maintenance field to get valuable job experience. During their apprenticeships, they can work toward an airframe and powerplant certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Ricky Rodriguez, vice president of aircraft maintenance at Texas Aero in Waco, said he likes to hire military veterans because of their mindset and experience.

But he said it is challenging to find qualified people holding airframe and powerplant certifications who want to work in general aviation. Rodriguez said the certificate provides many opportunities for people to work anywhere in the country and make good money.

“It seems like as soon as they come out of school, the airlines come in and swoop them up,” he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website, aircraft mechanics and service technicians make a yearly median salary of more than $66,000. The highest concentration of workers is in the Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio areas. Texas is projected to need more than 19,300 workers by 2028, the highest number in the country.

TSTC offers associate degree programs in Aircraft Airframe Technology and Aircraft Powerplant Technology and certificates in Aircraft Airframe Technician and Aircraft Powerplant Technician.

Registration continues for the summer and fall semesters at TSTC. Scholarships are also available. For more information, go to tstc.edu.