Flores experiences college life while training for career

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Isaiah Flores wanted a 24/7 college experience.

He decided to attend Texas State Technical College’s Welding Technology program in Sweetwater and live on campus. He has not regretted the decision to leave his childhood home of Hamlin to attend school.

“I toured the Abilene lab and knew that welding would be a career for me. But I chose Sweetwater because I wanted to have the college experience,” said Flores, who is pursuing a certificate of completion in welding.

College life for Flores includes meeting new people and being able to walk around campus. When he is not in the lab working on projects, he makes sure to complete his online assignments in between other activities.

“I have made a lot of friends living on campus. We like to hang out and have fun,” he said.

Flores’ favorite time of the week is welding in the lab and helping his friends with advice.

“I like welding, and it is good we can work in the lab every day,” he said. “(Instructor) Taylor (Elston) explains things a lot, and it helps us complete our projects.”

Elston said Flores works hard to complete projects and help others.

“Isaiah does his work really well and is always asking questions. He wants to be the best he can,” he said.

One of the first things that Flores and the other students completed was a weeklong safety training course.

“We have to be safe in the lab, and spending a week reviewing what we need to do was helpful,” he said. “Taylor really wants us to be safe, and we work to make sure we are not doing anything that could cause an injury. The sparks are always flying, and it is easy to get hit. We make sure we watch to see where our friends are before we get to work.”

Flores said people who do not have experience could begin this program. He had some welding experience helping his uncle in Hamlin, but for others, Flores said Elston is the perfect instructor to help them get started.

“One of my friends did not have any experience welding when he started the program. Taylor worked with him and showed him how to weld,” he said. “Now he is doing projects really well and becoming a better welder. I hope more people look to start a welding career because Taylor has the experience and can teach you everything you need to know.”

While Flores enjoys the campus life, he also enjoys returning to Hamlin to visit friends and going on an occasional fishing trip. But he is looking forward to the day he can show his uncle what he has learned in the lab.

“I have texted him some photos of my work, but he has not seen my full potential,” he said. “I cannot wait to show my uncle what I can do with a welding torch.”

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

TSTC Electrical Power and Controls program filling area jobs

(RED OAK, Texas) – Electricity drives not only productivity, but also job creation.

Warren Ketteman, president and chief executive officer of the Waxahachie Economic Development Corp., said the availability of electricity is a key factor for prospective companies interested in the city. The Waxahachie EDC and Texas State Technical College in North Texas work together to ensure that there is a trained workforce for new and existing companies to fill jobs.

“With manufacturers, they want to know the proximity of available power, or if it is not in near proximity to the site, how soon can it get there,” Ketteman said.

Nick Scarpinato, lead instructor in TSTC’s Electrical Power and Controls program at the North Texas campus, said he has talked to representatives of four companies in the last month regarding employment opportunities for students. This is a sign, he said, that the job market is doing well.

“They (employers) come to our facility, and they see what we are doing and say, ‘Wow, that is what we need,’” he said. “We are trying to make courses that fit the industry.”

Scarpinato said TSTC students often have jobs lined up before graduation, with many staying to work in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He said Oncor has hired several alumni, and Sherwin-Williams has expressed interest in program graduates. AEP and Coca-Cola have also hired recent graduates statewide.

“With Electrical Power and Controls, there are so many different options,” Scarpinato said. “You can start out in one area, and if you don’t like it, you can move to another very easily.”

Cisco-Eagle Inc., which has its headquarters in Dallas, is currently looking for a programmable logic controller and field technician who can program automated safety systems, do minor controls wiring, create electrical drawings and schematics, and troubleshoot issues. The company specializes in all facets of materials handling, including automation and distributed intelligence.

Logan Beard, Cisco-Eagle’s health and safety manager who also does onboarding of new employees and handles job postings, said he has noticed more people applying for jobs throughout the company. He said the company likes to see job applicants with some technical experience. The company works with Allen-Bradley and Schneider programmable logic controllers.

“If we are asking for someone to hit the ground running, we want them to have that background,” Beard said.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website, powerhouse, substation and relay electrical and electronics repairers make a yearly median salary of more than $70,000 in Texas. More than 1,900 workers will be needed in the state by 2028.

Graduates can also go on to become commercial and industrial equipment electrical and electronics repairers. These workers make a yearly median salary of more than $61,000 in the state. More than 5,800 workers will be needed by 2028.

North Texas’ Precision Machining Technology program teaches hybrid classes and labs during the day and at night. Students can earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Precision Machining Technology or a certificate of completion in Machining.

“We leave the construction and installation to the electricians,” said Richard Filut, statewide lead instructor in TSTC’s Electrical Power and Controls program. “We are more about the engineering and maintenance aspects. We still have some of the same skills as far as being able to install a piece of conduit or run wires or terminate conductors. We are more worried about the operations of the equipment.”

This fall, Advantage Academy Charter School Grand Prairie and Red Oak High School will have students taking dual enrollment classes to earn a certificate of completion in Machining.

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

TSTC Digital Media Design graduates offer skills, creativity to Rio Grande Valley

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – People who thrive on creativity can easily find digital media design jobs in Texas.

Texas State Technical College’s online Digital Media Design program teaches students about digital imaging, digital video, photography, typography and other topics. With a well-curated portfolio, students can be confident in their abilities to work in agencies and businesses of all sizes.

Devon Smittkamp, a founding partner at Glitch Creative Labs in McAllen, said he has noticed the creative talent growing during the last few years in the Rio Grande Valley.

“We live in a time of instant gratification,” he said. “Someone with a camera is an influencer. Someone with a laptop and a design program is a designer. A lot of people can do good design, but they need to have the mentality behind it and know the customer-service end.”

Smittkamp said people who are successful in the digital media design field have an eye for what looks good and the skills to do work that does not always follow traditional rules. Those entering the industry should have good critical and logical thinking skills. Fitting in with a creative agency or business can also help potential workers.

“We work hard here,” he said. “It’s important to be able to have some fun in the creative process. Culture is a really important thing.”

Jerry Vavra, statewide lead in TSTC’s Digital Media Design program, recommends that students do freelance work before they graduate in order to gain experience in dealing with customers and understand the financial value of their work.

Vavra said students seeking jobs upon graduation should pay attention to the kind of portfolio that employers want to review. He said the type of work they apply for also factors into what materials should make up the portfolio.

Smittkamp said those interviewing for jobs should not put random files into Dropbox, a hosting service using cloud technology, to present portfolios. He said personal design websites are good to point potential employers to, along with a range of images and a resume put together in a PDF format.

Vavra said people who are job hunting should consider employers’ benefits and insurance plans. They should also embrace remote work.

Smittkamp said he is excited to see young adults starting their own creative agencies in McAllen.

“It is proven (that) the world is going digital,” he said. “There is value still in traditional media, but in looking for a younger audience, everything is digital.”

Students who graduate from TSTC’s Digital Media Design program can go on to become art directors, graphic designers, film and video editors, and photographers. The yearly average salary among these professions in Texas ranges from $47,000 to $76,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website. There will be a need for more than 36,900 workers in Texas by 2028.

This fall, TSTC’s program will be taught in a performance-based format. Performance-based education allows students to have flexibility with their schedules as they master set competencies. Students can build on existing knowledge and may have the opportunity to graduate earlier than planned. Students will still have semesters, but the number of classes will vary.

Vavra said performance-based education appeals to a new kind of student that TSTC is seeing.

“They come in knowing how to self-teach, and they go at a faster pace,” he said. “They could go through a class much faster and end up with a good portfolio. We are forcing them to perfect the competencies before they move on.”

Students already enrolled in the Digital Media Design program before the start of the fall semester will be considered “traditional” because they will still take classes lasting the full 15 weeks of a semester.

Vavra said due to the online program expanding statewide, faculty members will use Google rooms starting this fall to connect students from different locations. Faculty members will also have set room hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays to Fridays and be ready to answer students’ questions and spur on creative discussions.

TSTC offers an online Associate of Applied Science degree in Digital Media Design.

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

With construction increasing, TSTC fills welding needs

(ABILENE, Texas) – With construction projects increasing in West Texas, the need for welders will only grow.

Greg Nicholas, Texas State Technical College’s Welding Technology instructor in Abilene, said the number of area job postings for welders increases on a weekly basis, and that means construction is underway.

“Currently there are more jobs available than we have welders in our area. That is a good problem to have,” he said.

With two major construction projects underway in the area, Nicholas said TSTC will play a key role in filling positions. In Abilene, Great Lakes Cheese Co. is planning to build a facility, and Georgia-Pacific is building a second gypsum plant in Sweetwater.

“There are several construction projects going on in our area, and I know many contractors will be needing qualified welders,” Nicholas said.

In West Texas, the average salary for a welder is $46,490, according to onetonline.org. Indeed.com lists more than 60 welding jobs in West Texas.

Nicholas said many of his students are already working on jobs while attending school. One of those students is Jeremiah Hall, who is working toward an Associate of Applied Science degree.

“People are looking for welders all over. I am working at a fabrication shop and doing some welding on the side,” he said.

Hall said when Texas began reopening businesses, people were looking for jobs. He said with more businesses opening up, construction will return at a brisk pace.

“I know that the oil and gas industry is still not what it used to be, but once we get that going, Texas will be booming with even more welding jobs,” he said.

Hall said many contractors are looking for welders to do frame work on projects, and having a degree or certificate from TSTC will help.

“The program is amazing and will prepare you for a great job with great pay,” he said.

Donavan Gomez is also pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree and will have a job waiting when he completes the program.

“I know things are going to pick up for us, and I am glad I am studying for a degree,” he said. “The instructors want all of us to be successful, and that is the most important thing. Our success is the school’s success.”

Nicholas said welding opportunities will always be available, and he works to make sure that TSTC provides quality employees.

Welding Technology is one of five programs at TSTC that have money-back guarantees. The college’s commitment to welding students is simple: If they do not have a job within six months of graduation, they will receive a full refund of their tuition. For more information on the money-back guarantee program, visit https://www.tstc.edu/about/moneybackguarantee.

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

TSTC Paramedic student takes advantage of second chance at life

(ABILENE, Texas) – Brittney Sims said she received a second chance at life for a reason.

In 2005, Sims attempted to take her own life as a teenager and at one point was not responsive to paramedics trying to save her. Sixteen years later, Sims is now a student in Texas State Technical College’s Paramedic program and is studying under the paramedic who was the first to arrive at her house that day.

Ronnie Pitts, TSTC’s Emergency Medical Services instructor, was that paramedic. Doctors said Sims would not have normal brain function, but Sims wanted to prove everyone wrong.

“Ronnie Pitts played a key factor in saving my life. Without him, I would not be here today,” Sims said.

She earned her emergency medical technician certificate from TSTC and began the paramedic program for one reason.

“I knew I could do more with my life, and I knew that I wanted to help people the way that Ronnie helped me,” she said.

Pitts said when Sims began the program, he did not remember who she was at first. It was through an email that took Sims some time to write that he learned who this student was and what he meant to her.

“Out of the blue, I received her email, and it hit me,” Pitts said. “Many times as EMTs and paramedics, we wonder what happens to our patients after we drop them off. It is only normal. I am able to see what became of her, and I know she will be a successful paramedic.”

Sims said it took her some time to decide to leave her position in an orthodontics office to attend school, but she is glad she made the choice.

“(Pitts) was thrilled I made the decision to come back to school. I was glad I could show him that the outcome of his call to my house turned out for the best,” she said.

Sims currently works as an EMT at both MetroCare in Abilene and Scurry County EMS in Snyder. She said having experience at both a rural and a larger city service will pay off in the future.

“There are some things I do in Scurry County that I do not do in Abilene. I am impressed that I am learning something new every day,” she said.

Scurry County EMS Director Jason Tyler said Sims has shown signs of becoming a good paramedic.

“She is very confident in what she does and is a quick learner,” he said. “She is getting her eyes open to what rural EMS is about and what we stand for. She is beginning to understand that it is an entirely different system and one she could be successful in.”

Sims said she wants to help pay it forward by promoting TSTC’s program as often as possible. That included recruiting her best friend to join the program earlier this year.

“I hope we will be able to work on an ambulance together one day. Right now, it is good that we are able to see each other on a daily basis,” Sims said.

Sims is also able to talk to her instructors about the calls she had to answer. She said that makes the program appealing to many students.

“There is such amazing team support with all of the instructors. We know that we will be able to talk to them about things we experience in the field,” she said. “I knew I was saved for a reason. I just needed to search for what it was — and it was to become a paramedic and help people like Ronnie helped me.”

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

Hands-on approach leads Ramos to TSTC Automotive Technology

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Noe Ramos likes to work with his hands — especially on automobiles.

After graduating from Mercedes High School in 2020, Ramos wanted to pursue a career in criminal justice but decided to change his career path. He learned about Texas State Technical College’s Automotive Technology program and is now pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree.

“I found out quickly that criminal justice was not the route I wanted to take in my life,” Ramos said. “I have always liked working with my hands and had some experience with cars.”

Ramos works at AutoZone, where he uses the knowledge he learns in class with his customers.

“Almost every day at work, someone comes in with a problem, and I can help them with the right solution,” he said. “It is amazing that I am able to help my customers by telling them what is wrong with their vehicle.”

One reason that Ramos chose TSTC was because it is close to his family.

“I wanted to go to school close by to help my parents. I am able to stay home and help around the house,” he said. “If something goes wrong with our car, I am able to work on it because of what I am learning in school.”

Ramos’ high school counselor referred him to TSTC.

“My counselor’s son went to school there, and I was able to tour the campus,” he said. “I knew it would be a good place to learn a skill.”

Ramos said the best part of the program is attending lab sessions and working on vehicles.

“I get to learn more each day in the lab. It is good that we can talk to each other and form friendships,” he said. “I like to learn new things and share what I learn with others.”

With lofty goals, including graduating with a perfect grade-point average, Ramos said he will be set up in the field because of TSTC’s goal of training today’s workforce.

“I want to get a good job so I can buy property and build a house. A good job will allow me to support my family,” he said.

Ramos knows that automotive technicians will be in demand over the next few years. According to onetonline.org, Texas is expected to add more than 6,600 automotive technicians by 2028.

His ultimate goal is to open an engine performance shop in the Rio Grande Valley.

“It is growing in popularity in the Valley, and I would like to be part of the new trend,” he said.

With his education goals in mind, Ramos said he will be ready for the future.

“I know what I get out of life depends on how much I learn and how much effort I put into learning everything I can,” he said.

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

TSTC graduate enables bank customers to use online services with ease

(WACO, Texas) – Travis Pitrucha grew up in Temple and graduated in 2018 from Texas State Technical College with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Programming Technology. He was hired after graduation at Citibank in Irving, where he is a senior software engineer.

Pitrucha’s work involves developing and maintaining a series of small programs called microservices that provide critical information to Citibank’s online, Internetwork Operating System and Android mobile apps. He is also responsible for all of the bank’s reward programs.

What inspired you to study Computer Programming Technology at TSTC? 

I wanted to learn programming and not everything else that typically comes included with a degree at larger universities. I also didn’t have the money for four years at a university. By going to TSTC, it let me learn the skills, get into the workforce and become financially stable enough to then go back and get the larger degree.

How did TSTC prepare you for going into the computer programming field? 

I knew I wanted to go into this field, but knowing where to start is where TSTC came into play. The biggest thing TSTC left me with is how to find information. Learning all the different computer languages is secondary to learning how to properly use Google.

What motivates you to wake up each morning and go to work? 

At Citibank, we are put in charge of an aspect of the bank. For me and my team, it’s rewards and earnings. You have some ownership of what you develop. If there is an issue, you fix it. Your team relies on you, and you succeed or fail as a team. This motivates me to work every day. The pay is also really, really good.

What is a typical workday like for you? 

Our workday is broken into two blocks a day, a six-hour period of development work and a two-hour period of time set aside for meetings and training. Every day at 9 a.m. there is a small group call when we go over progress with our ongoing tasks. You then start working on your stories. A story is a task that has been planned and typically assigned to you at the start of the month.

Our tasks range from testing out our code and user influence elements and monitoring traffic in the production environment, to developing and designing new features. One day of the week, I actually get to write code, with everything else being design and planning.

Working at an enterprise level, an error that happens 0.01 percent of the time is not good enough. Our code is used billions of times a week. When you work with volume this high, small errors affect a lot of people. Everything must be planned, checked and validated.

How do you keep up to date on changes in the computer programming field? 

Programming is such a large field, and what you do will vary. If you are working for a startup company or a company that develops new technology, you will be on the front end of the rapidly advancing field. Doing something in a new way or using the latest thing will give your company an edge. So, following the latest trend is almost in the job description.

Now, if your job is not developing new technology and you work more on the services end, this includes every other business in the world. You develop and work on an enterprise level. Billion-dollar companies value stability and resiliency so much that by the time you get to use something, it’s several years old. Making and keeping up with the latest thing is something you need to do in your free time.

Why is computer programming the best field for graduates to pursue? 

We live in a digital world. Every single aspect of that world runs on computer code. If there is not code running on it, then code was used to make it. If you want to make something as a computer programmer, you can literally make it into existence. There is no limit. Because of this limitless potential, there are a lot of jobs available right now in the United States.


According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website, software developers and software quality assurance analysts and testers in Texas make a yearly median salary of more than $108,000. Jobs are concentrated in the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio areas.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that more than 1.7 million software developers and software quality assurance analysts and testers will be needed nationwide by 2029.

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

TSTC Precision Machining Technology program ready to meet area job needs

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – From airplane landing gears to smartphones, precision machining is a critical component of our lives.

“Everything comes from an actual machine shop making the products you are going to need for later use,” said Isaac Gonzalez, lead instructor in Texas State Technical College’s Precision Machining Technology program in Harlingen. 

Gonzalez said it is challenging to change misconceptions about how modern precision machining is. While students learn some techniques on older, more manual machines, technology is at the forefront in hands-on lessons. Students work with Mastercam and SolidWorks software, both used for computer-aided design and engineering.

“You can design what you want on your laptop at home, go to TSTC and have it produced on the actual machine,” he said. “You can do anything on computer numerical controlled (CNC) machines now. A lot of our industries have moved toward all CNC machines, which is high technology. That is what we are trying to teach our students.”

Gonzalez said the program’s students are sought after by employers by the time many of them graduate. He said the salary that employers can offer makes a difference in whether graduates stay or leave the Rio Grande Valley to work.

Jerry Portales is general manager at the Harlingen location of Atlantic Durant Technology Inc., or Adtech, which is part of Ohio-based Atlantic Tool & Die Co. He said the company is constantly looking for talented precision machinists and tool makers to ensure that stamping production tools are in good condition to maintain quality and customer satisfaction.

“TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology program is a great option for kids who are looking for a short training program,” Portales said. “It will help them improve their income by working in machine shops to support a manufacturing plant using precision machines and tools, or working for a manufacturing plant such as ATD to maintain tools in a good condition by using precision tools and machines.”

Raudel Garza, manager and chief executive officer of the Harlingen Economic Development Corp., said ITD Precision in Harlingen also has a need for well-qualified technicians.

“HEDC stands ready to help these companies and others gain access to TSTC’s programs and the Texas Workforce Commission’s grants, such as the Skills Development Fund,” he said.

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. Most jobs are concentrated in the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio areas.

Harlingen’s Precision Machining Technology program teaches in a hybrid format for both day and night classes. The program starts new students each fall and spring. Students can earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Precision Machining Technology and a certificate of completion in Machining.

This fall, high school students from the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District and Mercedes Independent School District will begin taking dual enrollment classes to work toward earning certificates of completion in Machining.

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


Oil field salesman finds second career at TSTC

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – An oil field salesman is finding a second career, thanks to Texas State Technical College.

Brett Dupre, of San Angelo, said the pandemic made him pivot his career plans, but he still wanted to get his hands dirty. He remembered touring TSTC while in high school, and now he is enrolled in TSTC’s Wind Energy Technology program.

“After what happened last year, I knew I would need a change,” he said. “Since graduating high school, I worked in the oil field. My dad was an oil field salesman, so it came naturally to me. I knew I would have to move forward from that field.”

He has not regretted the decision to attend TSTC to pursue an Associate of Applied Science degree.

“It is really interesting what we learn. There is nothing like it,” Dupre said. “I like the hands-on approach because I love fixing things. I always have.”

Dupre has friends who work in the oil field and others who work on wind turbines. He said both forms of energy are needed to power Texas.

“We are going to have to have both forms of power in our future. I do not know how that is going to go, but energy needs to work together,” he said.

Dupre said he wants to be more than a salesman. TSTC Wind Energy Technology instructor Billie Jones said that is one of the best features of the program.

“We have students who enter so many different fields. It could be wind, it could be the oil field or electromechanical,” she said. “We can offer our students so much of a career option.”

One aspect of the program students enjoy most is the first climb inside the TSTC wind turbine tower in Nolan County.

“I have not climbed yet, but I am looking forward to it,” Dupre said. “I have a friend who works on the turbines, so I have been inside one.”

With his career options open after graduation, Dupre said TSTC was also a good choice because of its success in placing students in jobs.

“People really seem to do a lot more than they have to in order for us to be successful,” he said. “That is one reason I decided to enroll. This is a good place to start your career, because you will be successful in your field of study.”

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

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.