Author Archives: Daniel Perry

TSTC Alumna Looks to Inspire Women to Pursue Medical Repair Field

(WACO) – Rosie the Riveter, the World War II symbol of a woman’s working world, is still important today to Texas State Technical College alumna Rhiannon Thurmond.

A small doll version of the icon is Thurmond’s travel companion on work assignments as a working manager for the regional branch of Ultimate Biomedical Solutions in Magnolia. Thurmond’s Rosie the Riveter carries a tool bag and is an inspiration for her work.

“I get in my truck and see her hanging there and say to myself, ‘We can do it,’” Thurmond said. “Be the example you would want your kids to see. This speaks to my heart as I have two girls. My youngest is in second grade and my oldest is in high school. I hope they see me doing great things and walk away inspired. I was a single mom when I started at TSTC.”

Some of Thurmond’s job duties include meeting monthly preventive maintenance and corrective quotas, negotiating contracts and helping to purchase new medical devices for clients. Her work is done at surgical centers, emergency rooms and imaging centers in the Austin, Dallas and Houston areas.

She recently received certification from Penlon, an international company specializing in anesthesia, intubation, oxygen therapy and suction equipment.

“Every day is a new opportunity to assist in the growth of my company,” Thurmond said. “I provide as much value as I can by offering new, dynamic ideas to improve our task management software, business processes and new account acquisitions.”

Jobs for medical equipment repairers are expected to grow to more than 49,000 through 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Woodlands – Houston – Sugar Land area has the highest number of medical equipment repairers in the state with about 850 workers.

Roger Bowles, a TSTC instructor in the Biomedical Equipment Technology program, is encouraged by the number of jobs available in the field for graduates.

“It’s wide open,” he said. “They just need to be flexible about where they need to go.”

Thurmond grew up in Bryan and San Marcos. She was influenced to pursue her career by her mother-in-law, an emergency room trauma nurse.

“I have always enjoyed tinkering with electronics,” Thurmond said. “I used to tear apart my brother’s fire engines for the LEDs to make flashlights so I could stay up late and read after my mom said it was lights-out.”

Thurmond graduated in 2006 from TSTC with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Biomedical Equipment Technology.

“When I went to TSTC, there were only a handful of us gals, and by the end of the semester, I believe there were only two in my graduating class,” Thurmond said.  “If you are a female interested in the Biomedical Equipment Technology field, don’t let that stigma that a woman can’t do well in the technology field stop you. Put on your boots, be confident and absorb everything like a sponge.”

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TSTC Faculty Senate Hosts Retiree Gala

(WACO) – Texas State Technical College’s Faculty Senate honored the past and present at its first Retiree Gala on Saturday night at the Baylor Club.

Attendees dined and danced the evening away as they saw sweeping views of Waco. They also vied for prizes from some of TSTC’s technical programs and sang karaoke.

“The best way to live is to serve,” Adam Hutchison, TSTC’s provost, told the attendees.

Frances Worthey retired in 2016 having worked “40 years and three months” in student counseling, women’s resources and student life.

Worthey said when she began work in 1976 at TSTC there were about 100 women attending classes. She said it was a challenge educating the campus and community about the importance of women pursuing technical education.

“I enjoyed the special times at TSTC, like the holidays,” Worthey said. “We did so much for the students.”

Charles Reed worked for 25 years at TSTC and retired in 2007 as the vice president for student development. He said he started as a student recruiter and worked his way up at the technical college.

“I loved the students and the belief in them and putting them in the workforce,” Reed said.

Two TSTC students each were awarded a $500 scholarship at the event.

Cici Bunting, 19, a Culinary Arts student from La Porte, created an ornamental red, white and blue cake for the occasion and helped make the vanilla and chocolate cake served to attendees. She said she would use some of the scholarship money to buy a new Culinary Arts uniform.

“It came at a good time,” Bunting said.

Bunting represented TSTC at SkillsUSA’s 54th annual National Leadership and Skills Conference earlier this year in Kentucky. Her instructors cited her willingness to volunteer for program events as a reason she was deserving of the scholarship.

“I really like the science and how much you have to think,” Bunting said about her decision to pursue culinary arts.

Jesus Madrigal, 19, a Welding Technology student from Waco, also received a scholarship. He built a metal windmill in a contest for welding students to decide the scholarship recipient. His instructors said he has a bright career future.

“Being a college student, any amount of money helps,” Madrigal said. “It’s an honor to receive this.”

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TSTC Unveils New Emergency Medical Services Simulator

(BROWNWOOD) – Texas State Technical College’s Emergency Medical Services program celebrated its new ambulance simulator with an open house on Wednesday.

The Brownwood Municipal Development District and the city of Brownwood provided about $50,000 in funding for the simulator, said Andy Weaver, TSTC’s statewide director for Allied Health and Emergency Medical Services.

“This will help grow the program for students to have better learning opportunities,” Weaver said.

He said students will get as close to a real-life experience as possible while working in the simulator, which is roughly the size of an ambulance without the cab and engine.

Ray Tipton, executive director of the Brownwood Municipal Development District, said the organization is committed to helping educational entities develop skills to drive economic development.

“TSTC has been a valuable partner with Brownwood in developing technical skills,” he said. “We have a lot of highly technical-skilled jobs here. TSTC is a tool we use a lot to talk to companies when recruiting.”

Some students said they have enjoyed being in the simulator, which features operational blue and red lights.

Kaitlyn Gipson, 21, of Brownwood is a certificate student in the technical program she described as intense and fast-paced.

“It gives us a real look in the ambulance and how we do certain things,” she said. “You have to be committed to this field to work in it.”

Gipson said she was inspired to pursue the field because some of her relatives are in the medical field.

“I wanted to be on the front lines,” she said.

Ethan Rhodes, 18, of Brownwood is studying to earn an emergency medical technician certification to help him become a firefighter. He said he likes being in the simulator because he can learn with his hands.

The simulator is in the Emergency Medical Services program’s new lecture and lab space in TSTC’s Welcome Center. The program also has a new mock emergency room and video capability for lessons.

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TSTC Alumnus Moves On to Start Welding Career

(SWEETWATER) – One of Texas State Technical College’s recent alumni from the Welding Technology program has left a high mark for future students to attain.

Luis Rueda, 20, of Colorado City took dual credit classes while a student at Colorado High School and received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology in August. He also earned two other graduating honors.

“Luis has continually proven that he is willing to do whatever it takes to make a great hand,” said Taylor Elston, a TSTC Welding Technology instructor.

Elston awarded Rueda the Outstanding Graduate Award, a recognition putting him at the top of his Welding Technology classes.

“He is constantly asking knowledgeable questions, diligently checking his work, and he focuses hard on perfecting his craft with great efficiency,” Elston said.

Rueda also earned the Provost Award from TSTC in West Texas Provost Rick Denbow. Denbow chooses one student each semester to receive the award from those who have received the Outstanding Graduate Award in their program.

“I am so proud of Luis,” said Elston. “I’m glad he got the Provost Award too. He worked hard to earn it.”

According to Elston, Rueda was a consistent leader in the classroom.

“Luis never stops working,” said Elston. “He can work circles around everyone else and still always seems to be the happiest and the least tired.”

In between welding sessions, Rueda found time to enjoy himself and make friends on campus.

“(My favorite memory is) the day we had at the cook-off at the lake,” said Rueda. “It was pretty fun.”

Rueda has always shown promise.

He has been a student at TSTC in Sweetwater since 2015, when he enrolled as a Welding Technology dual credit student through Colorado High School. He first entered Elston’s class as a timid junior but quickly began to show signs of a talented craftsman.

“His junior year he mostly kept to himself,” said Elston. “However, as a senior he was in a fabrication course during the same hours they were juniors in an intro welding course. After he had all his own assignments in, he would hang out with the younger guys and watch them weld and give them pointers.”

Rueda decided to go into the dual credit program after his brother told him how fun and interesting welding was.

“It was a great opportunity that not all schools offer you,” said Rueda. “I just thought it was a great opportunity that my school was offering and that it was gonna help me in my future since I decided that I wanted to be a welder.”

After graduating high school in 2017, Rueda continued his education at TSTC with 15 college credit hours on his transcript, saving him time and money. Rueda was already in the know about  how college worked and what his instructors expected of him, putting him ahead of the game from his first semester as a college student.

“I already knew how to weld by the time I graduated high school, so I didn’t have to worry about that and already knew my instructors well and how they worked,” Rueda said.

Since Rueda’s graduation in August, he has recently been hired to build pressure vessels at Tri-Point LLC in Midland.

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TSTC Celebrates Opening of Industrial Technology Center

(ABILENE) – Texas State Technical College’s new Industrial Technology Center received a grand opening Thursday night at a ribbon cutting and community open house.

The 56,000-square-foot structure on Quantum Loop next to Abilene Regional Airport is home to TSTC’s Electrical Power and Controls, Emergency Medical Services, Industrial Maintenance and Welding Technology programs. The building built for innovative technical hands-on learning opened for the fall semester in late August.

“It’s not just about the facility, but it’s about the programs and the people,” said Texas House District 71 Rep. Stan Lambert, R-Abilene.

Lambert said TSTC students walking through the Industrial Technology Center’s doors will be introduced to skill sets to ready themselves for the workforce.

“We have to be nimble and flexible and ready for the challenges to come,” Lambert said.

Even high school students in area school districts will benefit from what the Industrial Technology Center offers. Eighteen Abilene High School students are taking dual credit classes in Electrical Power and Controls this semester. And in Spring 2020, students in the Abilene Independent School District’s fire academy initiative will work on certification in Emergency Medical Services at TSTC.

“We are very excited about the new opportunities for our students,” said Abigayle Barton, the Abilene Independent School District’s associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “Our students will become better college and career ready.”

John Beckham, president of the board of directors for The Development Corporation of Abilene, said TSTC’s new building was in a great location for growth in the city. One of the projects he cited was the development of the 21-acre Access Business Park at the intersection of Farm Road 18 and Texas Highway 36 near the airport.

Beckham said Abilene owed it to the youth to provide them opportunities for better pay and a good quality of life. He said he looked forward to TSTC’s contributions to the city.

“Abilene has a need for a highly skilled and a technically-competent workforce,” he said.

Some attendees were seeing the building for the first time.

Jennifer Kent, director of member engagement for the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, said she was excited for TSTC’s growth.

“I love what it stands for and what it can offer to the economy in Abilene with highly qualified workers coming through,” Kent said.

Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams thanked the city’s residents for their commitment in raising $6 million to help get the Industrial Technology Center built.

And, Williams was not shy about his vision for the future. He said he looks forward to seeing more TSTC buildings, and possibly an AISD career and technical education structure, in the next few years.

“Abilene always comes through,” Williams said.

TSTC’s newest building among its 10 campuses was designed by Parkhill, Smith & Cooper, which has offices in Abilene and throughout Texas. Imperial Construction Inc. of Weatherford used local contractors where possible to construct the building.

“TSTC is making an investment in this community,” said Rick Denbow, provost of TSTC’s Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater campuses. “But just as we needed community support to get this Industrial Technology Center up and running, we will need your continued support to make this master plan, this vision a reality.”

The ITC is the first of eight buildings planned in the next several years for the 51-acre campus that is estimated to serve 3,000 students.

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TSTC Automotive Technology Celebrates Club Formation, Donation

(WACO) – Texas State Technical College’s Automotive Technology SkillsUSA Club not only celebrated Wednesday its formation this semester, but also a financial contribution to rev up the program.

The TSTC Automotive Technology program announced a $30,000 gift from CarFest in San Antonio for participating in the two-day event in the spring. The money will be divided between TSTC’s Automotive Technology programs in Waco, Harlingen and Sweetwater for tools, scholarships and educational travel opportunities.

This year marked the third time TSTC in Waco has sent students to CarFest to repair vehicles and educate visitors about the Automotive Technology program.

Garrett Carlson, 21, of Llano was one of the Automotive Technology majors who made the trip to the Alamo City.

“It was very beneficial,” Carlson said. “There wasn’t anything that I didn’t learn from somebody. The most fun I had was looking at the classic cars.”

Carlson is one of the students taking a new Career Essentials class being offered this semester in the Automotive Technology program. The curriculum is from SkillsUSA and teaches students skills like decision-making, multicultural awareness, responsibility and leadership.

Chris Perales, a TSTC Automotive Technology instructor, will lead the class with the help of program instructors teaching specialized lessons. His inspiration for starting the class, which will double as training for state and national postsecondary SkillsUSA competitions, was the trip he made as part of the TSTC statewide delegation to SkillsUSA’s 54th annual National Leadership and Skills Conference in late June in Louisville, Kentucky.

“It reenergized me,” Perales said. “It motivated me to get them interested in SkillsUSA’s Career Essentials and the Chapter Excellence Program.”

The Automotive Technology SkillsUSA Club is open to all TSTC students. The group meets on Wednesdays at noon and two hours on Friday mornings for hands-on work.

Krystal Marshall, 19, is a Visual Communication Technology from Waco, is secretary in the Automotive Technology SkillsUSA Club. She joined so she could improve her leadership skills.

“I do want to learn about cars,” Marshall said. “I like showing people there are a lot of cool things going on in this club.”

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TSTC Alumnus Stays in Region for Technology Job

(WACO) – Sheldon Burney points to his experiences at Eden High School in Concho County for influencing his career decision.

The Eden Independent School District’s information technology director guided Burney in learning how to maintain networks while still a high school student. Burney started fixing technical issues for teachers during class periods.

“It was a lot of fun doing that,” said Burney, a Texas State Technical College alumnus.

Burney has been working since August in Corsicana as a field PC/network technician at Switch Technologies. A lot of his work involves traveling to clients’ locations to diagnose technical problems.

“We support the information technology in companies in cities ranging from China Spring to Ennis,” he said.

Burney said weekly conference calls help to keep himself and his co-workers updated on hardware and software changes.

“We use an app called Slack, and we will send each other articles to read and webinars to show how technology is changing,” he said.

Texas has more than 32,600 network and computer systems administrators with an annual mean wage of more than $91,300, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Connie Standridge, Corsicana’s city manager, said there is a need for information technology workers in the city, especially for individualized services. Corsicana has more than 23,600 residents, according to 2017 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“I think first you have to have good internet and high-speed access and good, affordable buildings and offices,” Standridge said. “A lot of people are now working from home.”

Burney was raised in Grape Creek and grew up during his middle and high school years in Eden. He graduated in 2013 from Eden High School.

He discovered TSTC from a friend who was studying Automotive Technology.

“I only wanted to attend a school that could further my experiences with technology hands-on instead of taking it from more of a logical standpoint,” Burney said.

Burney graduated from TSTC in 2015 with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Maintenance Technology and in 2018 with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Networking and Systems Administration.

“I never really expected to enjoy going to class that much because I jumped into college after high school,” Burney said. “TSTC has made me more confident with technology. They have been accommodating in helping me find a job.”

He plans to return in the spring to finish classes for associate degrees in Cyber Security and Cloud and Data Center Management.

“Sheldon is one of those students who proves that perseverance will win out,” said John Washington, a TSTC instructor in the Computer Networking and Systems Administration program. “His dedication to understanding the foundational skills required to work in the information technology field will ensure that his employer will be rewarded for giving him an opportunity to showcase what he has learned during his time at TSTC.”

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TSTC Programs Enabling Students to Repair, Maintain Equipment

(WACO) – Reid Terry, 18, of Robinson feels he has the winning combination.

Terry, a student at Texas State Technical College, is double majoring in Facilities Maintenance and Management and Industrial Maintenance. He is scheduled to graduate next spring and is already excited about his job prospects.

“I like knowing how things work,” Terry said. “You learn everything and anything. In maintenance, you are fixing lots of things. I don’t want to do the same thing daily. I want to do something on the facility side, maybe at a hospital.”

TSTC students can pursue a mechanical specialization in the Industrial Maintenance associate degree program and learn about heavy equipment rigging and movement, boiler maintenance and programmable logic controls.

Students like Terry have the option of earning the Associate of Applied Science degree in Facilities Maintenance and Management covering blueprint reading, building codes and inspections, and building maintenance management.

“The dual-degree students that will work in an industrial environment have an advantage over their peers that have not been through leadership training,” said Michael Hubbard, a TSTC Industrial Systems and Engineering Department instructional lead. “As a technician, troubleshooting, analysis and evaluation skills are paramount.”

Some of the fields in which graduates in Industrial Maintenance and Facilities Maintenance and Management can work include motor vehicle manufacturing and semiconductor and electronic component manufacturing.

Many of the  jobs are in Texas.

The number of electro-mechanical technicians is projected to be more than 14,000 and the number of industrial engineering technicians is expected to be more than 64,000 through 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jobs in the industrial maintenance and facilities maintenance fields are primarily in the Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio markets, along with the Killen, Temple and Waco areas.

Jerry Boroff, plant manager of Evans Enterprises Inc. in Abilene, Waco and Wichita Falls, said it is a challenge finding the right employees to fill available jobs. The company specializes in motor and wind turbine repair, along with crane and hoist maintenance.

Boroff said people interested in entering the industrial and facilities maintenance fields need to have curiosity.

“We do try to train all of the guys on our equipment on what they will be using in the field,” he said. “It’s the kind of industry that you make what you want to, if you want to put in the hours.”

Terry, along with his classmates Heath Brittain, 29, of Wortham and Joseph Irador, 28, of Houston, all gained work experience working this summer at Hawaiian Falls Water Park in Waco. They learned how much effort it takes to keep the water park functioning, from fixing pumps that produce waves to keeping air conditioning systems operating.

Brittain chose to major in Industrial Maintenance to pick up where he left off at TSTC before leaving a few years ago to work in the oil and gas fields. He wants the associate degree to get him higher pay when he returns to work full time.

“We are the industrial jack-of-all-trades,” Brittain said.

Irador is double majoring in Industrial Maintenance and Facilities Maintenance and Management to help make a career change. Irador was previously a mathematics teacher in the Houston Independent School District.

“I always took things apart as a child,” Irador said. “Since I’m in the programs, I have become more mechanically inclined.”

Irador, who graduates in December, is already interviewing for jobs.

“If I know what I’m doing, I’ll be the hardest worker there,” he said.

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New TSTC Instructor Brings World Experience to Culinary Arts Program

(WACO) – Executive Pastry Chef Michele Brown wants to bring the world to Culinary Arts majors at Texas State Technical College.

And she has the credentials to back up her vision.

Brown is a two-time member on regional Texas teams competing in the IKA/Culinary Olympics held every four years in Germany. She also provided support for Epicurean World Master Chefs Patrick Mitchell and Morris Salerno on the gold medal winning regional Texas team at the 2014 Expogast Villeroy and Boch Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg.

“Wow! A beautiful pastry chef, so talented,” said Salerno, owner and executive chef at BISTECCA –  An Italian Steakhouse in Highland Village. “Michele was a huge part of my international gold medal in Luxembourg in 2014. I will always be indebted to her.”

One of Brown’s goals as the new lead instructor in TSTC’s Culinary Arts program is to encourage students to do competitions not only to practice their skills, but to see what else is going on in the world.

Brown wants to see program faculty visit area schools to recruit students and increase interest in SkillsUSA. She also wants to get the program certified through the American Culinary Federation.

“The ACF is the gold standard in American cooking,” Brown said. “It means you have been tested with the hours you have put in and the competition work.”

Brown said having an ACF-certified program means TSTC can host certification testing. Also, Culinary Arts graduates can earn their organization certification, making them marketable to employers.

“Don’t burn any bridges,” Brown said. “I want the students to look around in their classroom, because those are the people they will see the rest of their lives, somewhere.”

Chef Gayle Van Sant, a TSTC Culinary Arts instructor, has known Brown for years through their involvement in the Texas Chefs Association.

“We are honored to have Chef Michele,” Van Sant said. “Our program is going to grow, both professionally and in the number of students. She will be instrumental in promoting pastry and baking. Our students will benefit greatly.”

Brown has had her eye on TSTC for a while. She met TSTC’s Chef Mark Schneider through the Texas Chefs Association and has kept up with the program’s growth.

“The caliber of students has really impressed me,” Brown said.

Brown said she enjoys teaching because she can take pride in students making their own discoveries.

“I like that moment the students get when they learn flour, eggs, sugar and yeast are not scary,” she said.

Brown grew up in northern Illinois. She said one of her first culinary experiences as a child was making chocolate chip cookies for her father. Her gift for the achievement was a mixer. Brown was involved in theater and worked in baking throughout high school.

She has an associate degree in pastry arts and an associate degree in Food Service Management from Johnson & Wales College (now Johnson & Wales University) in Providence, Rhode Island.

After college she worked at restaurants in New York City.

“I have washed dishes, I have been a cake gofer getting items,” Brown said about her career. “You have to build your way up. It’s up to you to do that because you need to know every aspect of the job.”

Brown earned the Certified Baker designation from the American Institute of Baking in 2010 and the Certified Executive Pastry Chef credential from the American Culinary Federation in 2017.

“I like being an architect with pastry,” she said. “I adore a good coconut pie.”

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TSTC Initiative Bets Students Can Find Jobs

(WACO) – Texas State Technical College is betting you not only get a job, but that you will get a great-paying one when you graduate.

That is why TSTC offers a Money-Back Guarantee on its most in-demand programs. If you do not get a job, you will get your tuition back, guaranteed.

TSTC’s Money-Back Guarantee began in November 2016 and is for students pursuing associate degrees in Diesel Equipment Technology, Electrical Lineworker Technology, Electrical Power and Controls, Instrumentation Technology and Welding Technology. The technical programs were chosen because they are in high demand in Texas.

So far, 51 students statewide are enrolled in the initiative, said Kacey Darnell, executive director of TSTC’s Career Services and Talent Management.

“Even though the programs in the Money-Back Guarantee have high job placement, signing up for the Money-Back Guarantee is like having an insurance policy, and it will cost participating students nothing,” Darnell said.

Students in these programs are eligible to sign up with campus Career Services and Talent Management representatives. Students who are not hired in their field within six months after graduation may be eligible to get a refund for their time at TSTC.

Cody Russell, 29, of Dublin, Texas, is pursuing dual associate degrees in Electrical Power and Controls and Instrumentation Technology. He said the Money-Back Guarantee was like a security blanket. He is scheduled to graduate with both degrees in December 2019.

“Anything after the fifth semester and if you are double-majoring, start consulting with Career Services,” Russell said.  

Michael Bowers, TSTC’s vice president of student learning, said the students who sign up for the initiative can have access to lessons on resume writing, interview techniques and other employment skills.

Robert Lovelace, a TSTC master instructor and statewide department chair in the Instrumentation Technology program, said there are at least 90 new students in the program this semester at TSTC in Waco.

“The students are advised of the Money-Back Guarantee program in the registration process,” Lovelace said.

He said several instrumentation jobs in the oil and gas industry are along the coast, in West Texas and the Panhandle. Graduates who pursue the field can become electrical and electronics engineering technicians, and commercial and industrial electrical and electronics repairers.

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