Author Archives: Amanda Sotelo Sotelo

TSTC, Valley Metro partner to meet industry needs

Texas State Technical College, in partnership with Valley Metro, recently started a Professional Bus Driver Training course through TSTC Workforce Training and Continuing Education to help fill a regional need.

The first class began the 80-hour, two-week course on March 5 and students in the class will receive preparatory training for both written and driving exams, and will receive hands-on training thanks to a bus donation from Valley Metro.

“This course was created to provide advanced training that can lead to a good paying job,” said Adan Treviño, TSTC Continuing Education special projects coordinator. “With this class we’re filling a demand and providing highly-skilled individuals into the workforce.”

Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council Valley Metro Director of Regional Transit Tom Logan said the bus donation not only ensures that students in the bus driving course receive the hands-on training they need to be successful but also helps fill an employment need.

“Public and private bus agencies are in need of certified and trained bus drivers,” said Logan. “TSTC’s training program gives us the source to hire drivers to fill our vacancies.”  

Logan added that through a long-time partnership with TSTC, he has witnessed the college produce high-caliber drivers and employees.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a steady job growth in the bus driving industry, growing six percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Also, data shows that Texas has a demand for drivers, employing more than 12,000.

Hoping to become one of those bus drivers is Gloria Garza, currently the only woman in the course.

The 45-year-old already holds a Class A license to drive tractor trailers, but said it is time for her to slow down and stay closer to home.

“I’ve worked hard all my life, and sometimes not the easiest work,” she said. “So this is a career change for me. It’s something stable, with benefits and close to home.”

Ruiz worked several years in Washington and Minnesota as a migrant driving tractors and harvesting corn, strawberries and blueberries. And because she was a migrant, the Motivation Education and Training (MET) program, a non-profit corporation that provides rural communities in Texas with employment training and family services, is covering her tuition, supplies and exams.

“I’m currently receiving unemployment, and having to make it stretch,” said Garza. “So receiving this kind of help is invaluable. I know there are good things, better things, ahead for me because of this course and assistance.”

TSTC Provost Cledia Hernandez said training students like Garza is what these types of partnerships and courses are all about.

“We’re continuously looking for ways to collaborate with organizations like Valley Metro to develop the workforce in the region,” said Hernandez. “So when they (Valley Metro) approached us about this partnership and helping them fill a bus driver shortage, we were on board.”

Hernandez said this is not the first time they host a bus driver training. Several years back TSTC worked in partnership with the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council and local transportation entities to get drivers trained and employed.

“We’ve seen great success with this type of training and we’re confident we’ll see success again,” she said. “This is what TSTC is created to do: provide our regional and state workforce and industry stakeholders with the trained workforce they need to help fill the skills gap.”

TSTC’s Professional Bus Driving Training will be hosted monthly.

Those that complete the course and pass all exams will earn a Class B license through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and can work as drivers for transit systems such as Valley Metro, Metro McAllen, Brownsville Metro and Greyhound Lines.

For more information on, or to apply for the Professional Bus Driver Training, and to learn more about the other services offered by TSTC’s Workforce Training and Continuing Education call 956-364-4503 or visit tstc.edu/workforce/ce.

TSTC to host its first Industry Job Fair

In line with its of mission of placing more Texans in high-paying jobs,

Texas State Technical College in Fort Bend County will be hosting its first Industry Job Fair for TSTC students and alumni.

The job fair will be hosted at the TSTC campus located at 26706 Southwest Freeway in Rosenberg with more than 40 companies signed up to  accept resumes and conduct on-site interviews. 

“The growth we have seen on this campus is exponential,” said TSTC Talent Management and Career Services coordinator Judy Cox. “And because of the highly-skilled students we’re producing and sending out into the workforce, we’re becoming more popular among local industries.”

Industry Job Fairs are an annual event hosted across TSTC’s 10 campuses statewide.

“Many of the industry reps who will be attending this event have hired TSTC students in the past or are interested in hiring,” said Cox. “One of the major reasons for hosting this job fair comes from request of these companies.”

TSTC students and alumni can expect to see companies such as Atec, Inc., a product and service manufacturer for aerospace and energy; Burns & McDonnell, a construction and engineering company; Coonrod Electric, an electrical construction services company; Crown Lift Trucks; HEB; Travel Centers of America-Petro; among others.

“TSTC is the technical education leader in Texas and companies know this,” said Cox. “And as industry continues to boom in our area and across the state, opportunities for our students grow.”

Cox added that programs at TSTC can be completed within two years or less, which in turn can save the student money and get them out into the workforce quicker.

This also allows TSTC to meet the increasing industry demand for more middle-skilled workers, which in most cases requires an education beyond high school, but not a four-year degree.

TSTC students and alumni are encouraged to attend the job fair and arrive dressed to impress and with updated resumes in hand.

If a student or alumni needs assistance preparing for the job fair, the college’s Talent Management and Career Services office offers resume writing assistance and interview coaching.   

Among these services, which are offered throughout the year, TSTC also offers job search assistance and for employers and industry partners, Employer Spotlights.

Employer Spotlights include on-campus recruiting visits used by employers to meet and speak to TSTC students and graduates about job opportunities.

“Our goal is to get our students hired before they graduate and this job fair is another tool in our arsenal that gives our students in the Fort Bend County area an advantage,” said Cox. “This will open up a world of opportunities for our students and industry partners.”

For more information on the Industry Job Fair or the services offered to students, alumni and employers, call Talent Management and Career Services at 346-239-3429.

TSTC nursing alum finds career success with two-year degree

For Amber Vega, every day brings new challenges as a registered nurse at the emergency room in Harlingen Medical Center.

But as an alumnus from three TSTC nursing programs, the 25-year-old said she is more than ready to handle what comes her way.

“I’ve seen everything: birth to death, and everything in between,” said Vega. “But I’ve never had a doubt that nursing is where I’m supposed to be.”

The Harlingen native followed in the footsteps of her mother, brother and many other family members who have pursued a career in the medical field.

“My mom and brother are nurse practitioners and many others are nurses,” she said. “Nursing is definitely in my blood.”

Vega graduated from the Nursing Assistant program in 2012 when it was still offered at TSTC, and also from the college’s Vocational Nursing and Registered Nursing programs in 2015 and 2018, respectively.

She had a number of nursing schools she could have chosen, but Vega decided on TSTC because of its proximity to home, affordability, length of program and class size.

“TSTC was a perfect fit for me,” she said. “I had plenty of one-on-one with instructors, a focus on hands-on training and patient care. I was well prepared and confident entering the workforce.”

When asked why a two-year degree over a four-year degree she said, “For me there was no difference. The degree wasn’t going to change the fact that I was going to be a registered nurse.  I had to take the same courses, same exams and do the same clinical rotations. Plus, I got to start working a lot faster.”

She added that pursuing a two-year degree also saved her and her family money, leaving them debt free.

TSTC’s registered nursing program takes approximately 20 months, or two years to complete and costs around $12,300.

According to the Nurse Journal, a worldwide social community for nurses, on average a bachelor of science in nursing takes nearly four years to complete and can cost on average anywhere between $40,000 to $65,000.

“It’s great not owing any money and saving what I’m earning to make a better life for myself,” she said.

Vega said nursing has changed her perspective on life, decision making and leadership; and it all started when she began her clinical rotations at Harlingen Medical Center.

It was also here where her skills were recognized and she immediately hired after passing her National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

“My goal as a nurse is to always give my best to my patients,” she said. “Patient care is number one, especially during this difficult time in their lives. I’m here to provide the best quality care whether it’s mental, physical, emotional or spiritually. With me my patients are never alone.”

She also said she is happy and relieved that TSTC has helped her find success in such a short period of time.

“I’m only 25, and most people my age are still looking for their place in this world,” said Vega. “But I found mine and TSTC helped me get there.”

Vega said she does hope to follow in her brother’s and mother’s footsteps and eventually become a nurse practitioner.

Nursing is also offered at TSTC’s Breckenridge and Sweetwater campuses.

For more information on the vocational nurse to registered nursing transition program at TSTC, visit tstc.edu/program/nursing or call 956-364-4983.

Information sessions are now being held twice a month through August 2019.  

Student Success Profile – David Pena

David Peña is an Engineering major at Texas State Technical College. He expects to graduate this semester with an associate degree.

The 22-year-old, who also works as a work-study employee as a mentor with the TSTC Office of Student Success, said he is excited about his future and happy that he’s been able to grow and maintain a 3.8 grade-point average.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate I plan on pursuing a career in engineering and eventually getting a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering.

What’s your dream job?

My uncle is a senior foreman for an engineering team in Hawaii, and I hope to follow in his footsteps.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment at TSTC has been maintaining my GPA. I was never an A student in high school, so I never expected to do this good in college, but TSTC has shown me that it’s possible.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned is about resiliency. Before enrolling at TSTC my plan was to enlist in the Air Force, but due to a past surgery I was disqualified. It was a big disappointment for me to say the least, but because of resiliency I didn’t let the discouragement or struggles keep me down.

Who at TSTC has had the most influence on your success?

My mathematics instructor Scott Contois and engineering instructor Hermes Chirino have been my greatest influences. They are inspirational to their students, push us to pursue our passions and encourage our education.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is to find a field and a career they are passionate about. Do more than just your basics at TSTC, complete an associate degree because there are programs that are going to bring so many opportunities to your lives.

TSTC to host annual Open House

Texas State Technical College in Fort Bend County invites all prospective students, community leaders and neighbors to its annual Open House.

The open house will be Friday, March 22, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at TSTC’s Brazos Center located at 26706 Southwest Freeway in Rosenberg.  

“This is an opportunity for us to showcase our campus and the type of technical education TSTC is providing to the local community and the state,” said TSTC student recruitment coordinator Yulonda Durst. “Events like this are eye-openers and give people a better understanding of who we are and what we provide.”

TSTC in Fort Bend County is one of 10 campuses throughout the state. It offers certificates and associate degrees in programs such as Cyber Security, Diesel Equipment Technology, Electrical Lineworker Technology and Welding Technology.

“We offer degrees in two years or less that can lead to great-paying jobs,” said Durst. “We’re focused on providing the skills needed for successful careers and on providing the state with a quality workforce.”

According to research conducted by the National Skills Coalition, 53 percent of all jobs are at the middle-skill level, but only 43 percent of the United States workforce is trained for this type of work.

Closing this skills gap and building a stronger economy is what Texas State Technical College has set out to do.

The National Skills Coalition reports that the majority of middle-skill job opportunities require education and training beyond high school, but not a four-year degree.

Durst said that during Open House those in attendance can learn firsthand about the training opportunities TSTC has to offer.

Programs will offer hands-on activities and demonstrations to give attendees the TSTC experience.

“We offer a wide variety of programs that have an in-demand workforce,” said Durst. “And so we hope that many will find TSTC a good fit for them.”

During the open house, TSTC will also offer 30-minute sessions on financial aid, college admissions and the “411 on TSTC.”

Campus tours and lunch will also be available. And every student who applies to TSTC during the Open House will be entered to win a TSTC scholarship for tuition, books and supplies.

“We want to encourage everyone who’s interested or curious about TSTC to stop by,” said Durst. “This is going to be a one-stop shop to get everything needed for registration ready. This could be the start to someone’s successful future.”

Registration for the TSTC Open House is online at https://bit.ly/FtBendOH19. Save the QR code to save time on the day of the event.

For more information on TSTC in Fort Bend County and the programs it offers, visit tstc.edu.

Student Success Profile – Esperanza Velazquez

Esperanza Velazquez is an Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics student at Texas State Technical College.

The San Benito native boasts a 3.75 grade-point average and expects to graduate with an associate degree in Spring 2020.

The 21-year-old is also active on campus as a work-study employee for Student Life and Engagement and the Student Government Association representative for her program.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate I plan on returning to TSTC to pursue a second associate degree in Engineering, and then transferring to a four-year university to obtain a bachelor’s degree in both engineering and communications.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to become an engineer and help cities and towns with underdeveloped housing improve this issue so families have a nice place to call home.  

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment while at TSTC has been receiving my work-study position with Student Life. This job has taught me so much about leadership and communication, and has given me other opportunities as a student I may not have otherwise received.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lessons I have learned is to listen to all sides of a discussion or debate and always think before speaking.

Who at TSTC has had the most influence on your success?

The person at TSTC who has influenced my success the most is Student Life and Engagement Coordinator and my supervisor Belinda Palomino. She has shown me how to never give up and to always believe in myself and my dreams. She is proof that as long as you work hard, success is possible.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is to really invest in improving time management skills, this is crucial to surviving college courses and juggling the workload.

TSTC grad finds career in booming medical industry

Vilze Gamboa didn’t think college was in the books for him, but nearly eight years later he graduated from the Biomedical Equipment Technology program at Texas State Technical College in Harlingen making him the first in his family to graduate from college.

After graduating from Harlingen High School in 2011, the Harlingen native immediately enlisted in the U.S. Army.

“I was not the best in high school. I never shined,” said Gamboa. “I didn’t have motivation to go to college, I was undecided.”

The 26-year-old enlisted in the Army and served nearly four years with a deployment to Afghanistan for nine months before returning home.

“The army was the best decision for me at the time,” he said. “I got to see the world and have experiences I never would have had otherwise.”

But upon returning home, Gamboa felt like something was missing and that something was a college degree.

“I had educational benefits from the army available to me,” he said. “So I enrolled at TSTC, never planning on earning a degree, but that instantly changed.”

Gamboa used his Hazlewood Act and G.I. Bill to pay for his education when he initially enrolled to take a few classes.

But with time spent at TSTC, the more he learned about the college, its programs and most importantly Biomedical Equipment Technology.

“I like the medical field, but being behind the scenes and repairing the technology used in the industry was more my fit,” he said. “So when I was introduced to the program there was no hesitation, I enrolled immediately.”

Today, Gamboa holds an associate degree in Biomedical Equipment Technology and works as a Biomedical Technician I at Baylor Scott and White Health in Temple, Texas.

He received his job offer before even graduating from his program. Today he is responsible for the repair and maintenance of operating room equipment such as surgical tables, lights, scopes, blood pressure monitors and IV pumps.

“As a student in Biomedical Technology you are immediately introduced to industry-standard equipment,” said Gamboa. “We train with this equipment every day, hands-on, so by the time we start applying for internships and jobs we are more than prepared to handle the everyday challenges of a biomedical technician.”

Gamboa, who is also a father of two, said he can now support his family and give them everything they need because of the great pay and benefits package he receives at Baylor Scott and White Health.

“Knowing I had this job prior to graduating, made the success of it all that much sweeter. Not too bad for a two-year degree if I say so myself,” he said. “I was relieved knowing that I could now start supporting my family. And even more important, TSTC opened me up to the possibilities of continuing education. It showed me how to like school.”

Gamboa hopes to continue setting a good example for his children by continuing his education.

In the near future, Gamboa hopes to attend a four-year university, while working fulltime, to earn a bachelor’s degree in Business so he can pursue management opportunities.

“TSTC truly changed my life and I recommend it to everyone I encounter looking for a new opportunity or career change,” he said.

In fact, even Gamboa’s brother is now pursuing an associate degree in Biomedical Technology from TSTC.

“I want my kids to realize that anything is possible,” said Gamboa. “They are only four and five, but I’m already having conversations with them about college, because I don’t want them to wait like I did and because of TSTC I’ve been able to set that example.”

Biomedical Equipment Technology is also offered at TSTC’s campus in Waco.

For more information on the program, visit tstc.edu.     

TSTC mechatronics students mentor HCISD STEM academy students

With Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education a focus in K-12 and institutions of higher education, Texas State Technical College Mechatronics Technology students are stepping up and doing their part to encourage middle schooler’s interest in STEM-related fields.

Recently, Mechatronics Technology Club officers and students volunteered with the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District STEM2 Preparatory Academy as judges and mentors for the school’s “First Tech Challenge” competition.

“It’s great that these students have already taken an active approach in STEM education,” said TSTC Mechatronics Technology student and club president Flavio Tello. “And it’s our duty as college students pursuing a STEM career to encourage and motivate them.”

A number of middle school students from across the Rio Grande Valley gathered at STEM2 Preparatory Academy for the competition. The contest consisted of robotic matches with robots the students built and programmed themselves.

“We know all too well the pressure a competition like this can bring,” said Tello. “So we are glad that we were able to give these students advice and share our own experiences.”

The Mechatronics Technology students, who have competed in competitions such as SkillsUSA in the past, made recommendations and suggestions to the students on how to improve their robots’ programming and competition times.

“It’s great being a part of this. I wish this is something I had when I was in school,” said Tello. “Times are changing and training is improving, which is why I hope these students take advantage of everything offered to them, and I hope that what we share with them encourages successful careers.”

STEM2 Preparatory Academy Counselor Brenda Duarte said she was pleased with the learning experience TSTC’s mechatronics students provided for her students.

“This visit went very well. We’re so appreciative that these TSTC students took the time to come out and help,” said Duarte. “The exchange of ideas and knowledge between everyone was great.”

Duarte added that there was a lot of discussion about higher education, robotic design, advances in technology, programming and coding.

She said she hopes the partnership between her campus and TSTC’s mechatronics program continues to grow because these students have had a large impact on her student’s interest in STEM education.

Tello and many of his peers will be graduating this semester, but said they are working diligently at getting other club members up to speed about the partnership so STEM2 Preparatory Academy students can continue to get mentored.

“STEM is here and is the future,” said Tello. “We need to work to keep these young students interested in STEM and it starts by letting them know they’re not alone.”

Since the competition, Tello and his classmates have returned to speak to classes at the STEM academy and to share their SkillsUSA robotic prototype.

For more information on Mechatronics Technology, visit tstc.edu.  

TSTC, Eaton partnership provides first-class training

A new partnership between Texas State Technical College and power management company Eaton is giving TSTC Electrical Power and Controls students an invaluable training opportunity.

Eaton, a global technology leader in electrical systems, and TSTC have been working closely for a year to create a program that would open the doors of Eaton’s Experience Center in Houston for the program’s students.

“I can’t put into words how valuable this partnership with Eaton is for our students and TSTC,” said TSTC Electrical Power and Controls instructor Jonathan Bonkoske. “This is a dream come true, and we are looking forward to the kind of opportunity this can bring.”

Recently the current cohort of Electrical Power and Controls students was invited to tour and train at the Eaton Experience Center, which provides a unique ability to give visitors hands-on training in a true application environment.

“This place is perfect to provide our students with a firsthand look as to what they can expect when they enter the field,” said Bonkoske. “And it also gives our students the chance to network with industry professionals.”

Although TSTC’s Electrical Power and Controls lab offers industry-standard equipment and tools, Bonkoske said there’s nothing that compares to seeing and using it out in the field.

TSTC Electrical Power and Controls student Thomas Penney from West Columbia, Texas, said that the training he receives at TSTC, in addition to the training he received at the Eaton Experience Center, has prepared him for a successful career.

“This experience has truly been an eye-opener,” said Penney. “I give our instructors props for working hard to give us this type of opportunity and for setting us up for success.”

Penney plans to graduate with his associate degree this summer and said he hopes this newly formed partnership will continue for years to come to benefit other students.

“This is great real-world experience, and I hope others that come after our class have the same opportunity,” said Penney. “I’m pretty sure it’ll only get better from here.”

Eaton District Operations Manager Joe Montanari and Bonkoske agree that this partnership promises to grow over time.

“This partnership is our contribution to education,” said Montanari. “And when I toured TSTC and the Electrical Power and Controls labs, they left an impression. Many students don’t get the type of training TSTC students receive.”

Montanari said the hands-on training the Eaton Experience Center provides is a supplement to what students are already learning at TSTC, and future plans for the partnership include supporting the program with equipment and tools, sending field engineers and technicians to the college for presentations, and ultimately hiring TSTC graduates.

Montanari’s counterparts in North Texas already work closely with and hire graduates from TSTC in Waco.

“TSTC students come highly recommended,” said Montanari. “And I’ve already been impressed with the students’ engagement, willingness to learn and excitement they have shown us.”

Bonkoske added that the opportunities found at Eaton’s Experience Center extend beyond Electrical Power and Controls, and he hopes in the near future he can incorporate Electrical Lineworker Technology, Cyber Security Technology and Industrial Maintenance into this training experience.

Electrical Power and Controls is also offered at TSTC’s Abilene, North Texas, Waco and Williamson County campuses.

For more information on the program, visit tstc.edu.

HVAC student finds her new career at TSTC

Camille Martinez thought she had settled on her life-long career right out of high school, but after more than a decade and realizing she was no longer growing without a degree, she took her life in a different direction.

The 39-year-old is now a Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) student at Texas State Technical College in Fort Bend County and the only female in the program.

“I can’t tell you why or how I became interested in HVAC, except that we live in Texas and we always need air conditioners,” she said with a laugh. “But in all seriousness, I know that HVAC is a stable industry and I will probably never be out of job or opportunities.”

For more than a decade Martinez worked with Texas Instruments in photolithography, processing images on chips that are part of fabrication for technologies used in, among other things, toys such as the Furby doll.

“Life was good, and I got comfortable. I was making really good money without a college degree,” said Martinez. “But at the same time not having that degree was weighing on me and I didn’t have growth opportunities because of it.”

So for a little over a year, she lived off her savings so she could begin the process of returning to school, but in the midst of it all her mother got ill and Martinez  became her full-time caregiver.

“My mom was my motivator. What was I was going to do without her?” said Martinez. “The one thing I know she wanted for me was to become a college graduate, so after she passed away in June I set out to do just that.”

The Richmond native holds a perfect 4.0 grade-point average, was recently invited to join Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society for her academic achievement and expects to earn her certificate in Summer 2019.

“I’m excited for this new chapter in my life,” she said. “I now have a goal, opportunities and the chance at a long-term career.”

She said her time at TSTC has been life-changing and her hands-on training invaluable. From the instructors to her classmates, who she now considers little brothers, she said her experience at TSTC has been a positive one.

“Everyone has been so supportive, encouraging and motivating,” said Martinez. “I never expected this, especially as the only woman in the class. But they have all proved me wrong. In fact, I’ve come to learn that everyone on campus plays a part in our success.”

Now with everything in place for Martinez, she said she expects to return to TSTC for an associate degree  and looks forward to begin her career working in the field to gain experience that she hopes leads to her very own HVAC company.

“My family has been so supportive making this an easy decision for me,” she said. “Because at TSTC I’m no longer wandering. I have a path and a sense of accomplishment. I have a future.”

Students like Martinez, who are enrolled in HVAC Technology, have access to industry-standard labs and an opportunity to learn and practice on commercial and residential heating and air conditioning equipment, refrigeration equipment and chilled water systems.

There are certificate and degree tracks provided so students can enter the field as skilled HVAC mechanics or installers.

HVAC Technology is also offered at TSTC’s Harlingen, North Texas, Waco and Williamson County Campuses.

For more information, visit tstc.edu/programs/HVACTechnology.