Category Archives: West Texas

TSTC Hosting Area High School Students for Dual Credit Classes

(ABILENE) – West Texas students are getting a taste of college life when taking dual credit classes at Texas State Technical College.

This semester, the Aviation Maintenance program is hosting high school students from the Clyde and Hawley school districts, and the Abilene Independent School District is sending secondary students to the new Electrical Power and Controls program.

“It shows we are working to give them an educational option,” said Kim Porter, TSTC’s vice president for student recruitment.

Students travel four afternoons a week to TSTC for general classes in the Aircraft Airframe Technology and Aircraft Powerplant Technology certificate programs.

“This gives the high school students the ability to sample and see an educational program and career field before they have even left high school,” said Josh Parker, a TSTC Aviation Maintenance instructor. “There is currently a labor shortage in the aircraft maintenance field, and all industry analysts are predicting the shortage to last many years to come. The job market for the graduates of our two-year program is booming, and with that boom, starting wages are going up as well.”

This is the third year TSTC’s Aviation Maintenance program has hosted high school students.

“I think it is beneficial for the students to work alongside the college students and do the rigorous work,” said Paula Kinslow, Clyde Consolidated ISD’s director of curriculum and special programs. “It’s not something that is unattainable. With the students going into a career field that is in high demand, we can help them get in and go forward.”

Clyde CISD also has students taking dual credit classes in TSTC’s Culinary Arts and Welding Technology programs in Abilene.

Kinslow said TSTC is a natural fit because of proximity and affordability.

“We are really proud of our kids and want to provide the most for them,” Kinslow said.

Less than 20 juniors and seniors from Abilene High School began a 12-week semester earlier this week in the Electrical Power and Controls program at TSTC’s new Industrial Technology Center. The students will travel to the campus five afternoons a week.

“The students can earn six semester credit hours that can be used for an Associate of Applied Science degree in Electrical Power and Controls at TSTC,” said Ketta Garduno, AISD’s director of career and technical education. “The DCOA (Development Corporation of Abilene) provided scholarship funds for eligible students who applied, and AISD, for this year, is covering the cost of transportation, books and supplies.”

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

 

TSTC Automotive Technology Program Poised to Fill Area Positions

(SWEETWATER) – Ivan Covarrubias, 19, of Perryton became interested in automotive repair by working on cars with his uncle.

Covarrubias, a certificate student in the Automotive Technology program at Texas State Technical College, has a goal of returning to Ochiltree County after graduation to help others get back to driving.

“Once I’m done, I hope to work at O’Reilly Auto Parts in my hometown and then work at Chevrolet,” he said.

TSTC offers the Associate of Applied Science degree in Automotive Technology and two certificates. TSTC in Sweetwater is the only one among the four West Texas campuses to offer the technical program.

Mike Myers, a TSTC Automotive Technology instructor, said some students typically have part-time jobs in the automotive field while in college. He said other students search for employment upon graduation.

“Some look at dealerships,” Myers said. “It’s a good way to get better knowledge of a brand and further yourself in the field. Others go to independent shops that work on all makes and models. Those graduates try to find a mentorn and they are the apprentice. They follow and learn from that person for a certain amount of time before they are put out on their own.”

Texas had more than 47,200 automotive service technicians and mechanics as of May 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. West Texas and the Panhandle had more than 1,600 jobs.

Nolan County’s only major automotive dealership, Stanley Ford Sweetwater, uses TSTC as a resource to fill automotive technician jobs. Kevin Atwater, the dealership’s fixed operations manager, said a TSTC graduate has recently been hired.

“We definitely need more automotive technicians. As we grow, we need more,” Atwater said.

This year, TSTC’s Automotive Technology program has more than 20 dual credit students from school districts in Big Spring, Bronte, Colorado City and other West Texas locations.

The need for automotive service technicians and mechanics is projected to grow nationally to more than 795,000 through 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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

TSTC Opens Industrial Technology Center

(ABILENE) – The first day of classes had that shiny new feeling Monday at Texas State Technical College.

TSTC opened the Industrial Technology Center on Quantum Loop next to Abilene Regional Airport just in time for fall classes. The building is home to the new Electrical Power and Controls, Industrial Maintenance and Welding Technology programs and is the new location for the Emergency Medical Services program.

“Starting today there will be more learning happening out in the labs,” said Rick Denbow, TSTC provost. “It’s not going to be a conventional lecture in the class and then go to the lab.”

The morning’s first group of Welding Technology students toured the automated and metallurgy labs. This semester the program will have morning, afternoon and evening sessions.

Greg Nicholas, lead Welding Technology instructor for TSTC’s West Texas campuses, spent time this summer organizing the welding labs. He said he did not sleep much Sunday night.

“I was thinking on how I would get the information to students,” Nicholas said. “These are things that go through instructors’ heads.”

McKenzie Smallwood, 18, of Odessa heard about TSTC on Pandora and later saw a billboard she considered a “sign” to enroll.

Smallwood was exposed to welding through her father. She is pursuing the Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology. She said she cannot wait to start welding later this week.

“It’s exciting to go to a technical college and learn how you do things,” Smallwood said.

Jacob Rose, 17, of Mertzon was encouraged to attend TSTC by a family friend. He comes to TSTC with welding experience from Irion County High School, where he graduated earlier this year.

Rose was in a whirlwind of excitement as he moved to Abilene the weekend before classes began on Monday.

“It’s a great opportunity to meet new people,” he said.

Kelsie Terry, an Emergency Medical Services instructor, was excited about being in the program’s new location. She said faculty members can now lead students in a mock emergency room and use video for student scenarios. The program was previously housed at TSTC’s East Highway 80 location in Abilene.

“There’s more tools and resources to make it as lifelike as you can in a setting,” she said.

Jonathan Brooks, 19, of Avoca said he was inspired to study Emergency Medical Services because of watching people care for his relatives in hospitals. One of the first lessons he learned Monday was how to render a blood pressure reading.

He saw the new building for the first time Monday.

“They put a lot of work into this,” Brooks said.

Construction on the 56,000-square-foot Industrial Technology Center began in June 2017. The building is the first on what is planned to be a 51-acre campus.

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 subcontractors where possible to construct the building.

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

 

TSTC Holds Summer 2018 Commencement

(ABILENE) – More than 130 graduates received certificates and associate degrees at Texas State Technical College’s Summer 2018 Commencement held Friday, Aug. 17, at the Abilene Convention Center.

Rick Denbow, provost of TSTC in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater, said the night was a time to celebrate.

“For the graduates, tonight is an achievement,” Denbow said. “The sacrifices you made to get homework and tests done and being experts at time management was all worth it.”

Guest speaker Samuel Garcia, owner and operator of Samuel Garcia State Farm Insurance and a board member at Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas, said he was a fan of TSTC’s mission.

Garcia told graduates to think about others who have not experienced higher education. He told them to value the certificates and associate degrees they were receiving.

“Tonight is about you,” Garcia said. “Tomorrow is about you talking about what education can do for a person.”

Some graduates will continue on with their education.

Devan Moore, 30, of Abilene is a U.S. Army veteran who received a certificate in Wind Energy Technology from TSTC in Sweetwater.

“I want to say that it is a sense of accomplishment,” he said. “The best times were when I was up-tower in a wind turbine and applying what I learned.”

Moore will be one of the first students in the new Industrial Maintenance Technology program starting this fall at TSTC in Abilene.

Some graduates already have jobs.

Pamela Hermosillo, 21, of Breckenridge earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Chemical Dependency Counseling from TSTC in Breckenridge.

She has been hired to work at the Walker Sayle Unit, part of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Hermosillo also did her practicum at the prison.

“You learn a lot from the inmates,” she said. “You understand what they are doing in their addictions to drugs and alcohol.”

Some graduates are continuing their job hunt.

Robert Wiley, 24, of Abilene received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Networking and Systems Administration from TSTC in Abilene.

“I enjoyed being around other students pursuing their career goals,” he said.

Wiley had several people in attendance at the graduation ceremony, including his parents and members of his church congregation.

Luis Rueda, 20, of Colorado City received a certificate in Welding Technology from TSTC in Sweetwater. He earned dual credit through TSTC when he was a student at Colorado High School in Colorado City.

“My brother started welding a lot,” Rueda said. “When he talked to me about it and said it was cool, that caught my attention and I just got into it.”

Rueda said he wants to get a welding job in the Midland-Odessa area.

Caydon Vara, 19, of Brownwood received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Emergency Medical Technology from TSTC in Brownwood.

“I want to go to the fire side of it,” Vara said. “It runs in the family. It’s a calling.”

Earlier in the day, the Associate Degree in Nursing Pinning Ceremony for TSTC in Sweetwater nursing graduates took place at an Abilene church.

For more information, log on to tstc.edu.

New TSTC Welding Technology Program Poised to Get Students to Work

(ABILENE) – The first group of Welding Technology students walking into the Industrial Technology Center at Texas State Technical College later this month will be in for a pleasant surprise.

The new building next to Abilene Regional Airport will have state-of-the-art equipment for automated welding and metallurgy, said Ashley Yezak, TSTC’s statewide department chair for Welding Technology. The building will open Monday, Aug. 27, for the start of the fall semester.

“Metallurgy students go to work with engineering companies or for companies with engineering departments,” said Yezak. “They can develop new welding procedures.”

The automated welding equipment is the first of its kind among TSTC’s four West Texas campuses.

Yezak said the kind of students who succeed in welding are those who are comfortable working with their hands or have relatives involved in the welding field.

Area employers are seeking welding graduates with such experience.

Mike Petty, owner of West Techs Chill Water Specialists in Abilene and a 1986 Welding Technology graduate of Texas State Technical Institute (now TSTC) in Waco, said job candidates for basic welding are readily available but those who do fitter welding are a challenge to find.

“They have to know a little trigonometry and understand how to measure and cut pipe on angles,” said Petty. “It’s more than just welding the pipe together.”

Petty said the oil and gas industry can determine the job candidate pool.

“West Texas has a lot of welders because of the oil and gas field,” he said. “The problem is when the oil prices go up, we have a shortage of welders, and when the prices go down, we have a surplus of welders. It all hinges on that oil price.”

Jeremy Bartz, human resources director at Hirschfeld Industries in San Angelo, said he has recruited Welding Technology graduates in the past from TSTC. The company has a fabrication plant in Abilene.

Bartz said a majority of the company’s work on large industrial, nuclear and structural projects throughout the world is wire welding.

“We can bring in three and four at a time to train,” he said. “We have to have experienced welders to go in and go to work. If we train somebody, we want them to come to work for us.”

Texas State Technical College will offer the Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology starting this fall in Abilene. Yezak said having the associate degree available gives certificate students at TSTC’s Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater campuses the option to continue their welding education.

Students can also earn certificates in structural welding or structural and pipe welding for the first time this fall in Abilene.

Yezak said Abilene’s welding programs can open up opportunities for high school students seeking dual credit and for prospective students in rural areas.

Besides the Welding Technology program, the Industrial Technology Center will house new programs in Industrial Maintenance and Electrical Power and Controls and will be the new location for the Emergency Medical Services program.

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

TSTC Wind Energy Technology Program Contributing to Area Economy

(SWEETWATER) — A summer breeze floating through Texas brings a moment of relief for some residents, but thousands of Texans are taking advantage of each gust as a clean energy source.

Texas State Technical College and Nolan County are working together to lead the charge in the nation’s number one renewable energy source: wind energy.

“In Nolan County alone we’ve seen more than 250 jobs emerge because of wind energy,” said Ken Becker, executive director of Sweetwater Economic Development. “Whether it’s maintenance, manufacturing or installation there’s an opportunity in multiple fields and that’s feeding back into the community.”

With no intention of slowing down, the industry is clamoring for more and more people.

“Wind energy is growing,” said Billie Jones, a TSTC Wind Energy Technology instructor. “It’s a renewable energy source, so it’s it going to be here when we run out of other fuel sources which means there is definitely job security.”

Locally, wind energy helps rural communities like Sweetwater with new sources of income and tax revenue. Globally, it provides an opportunity for the more adventurous to travel and work in various locations.

“I accepted a job with KBA and after I graduate in December they will be flying me to Germany for a year of training,” said Kaitlin Sullivan, a TSTC Wind Energy Technology student. “I’m so excited because I get to travel but also because my job options are pretty much limitless in this industry.”

Sullivan grew up watching wind turbines pop up in her hometown of Dumas, but assures that the industry is accepting of anyone willing to learn and interested in clean energy.

“I had already earned a bachelor’s degree in English but couldn’t find a job I liked, so I went back to school at TSTC and found my calling,” said Sullivan.

The wind energy industry has evolved from many field technicians learning as they worked to having specific industry standards, training and certification requirements for all wind turbine technicians.

“Back in 2007 when I entered the wind industry there were no wind turbine training programs and very few experienced wind turbine technicians,” said Tony Robinette, field operations and recruiting manager at SystemOne, which has locations in Amarillo, Dallas and Houston. “Now, training programs like TSTC have created clear paths for entry into the wind industry to meet the rising demand and create more opportunities for wind technicians.”

As global populations grow, so does the demand for energy.

“This industry is here to stay,” Becker said. “We use energy everyday and we need to pursue something sustainable like wind energy because it is renewable and it gives back in a positive way to the surrounding communities.”

TSTC offers the Wind Energy Technician certificate and the Associate of Applied Science degree in Wind Energy Technology.

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

TSTC EMS Student Sets a High Bar

(BROWNWOOD) – Christopher Michael of Comanche worked jobs as a bartender and band tour manager after high school, but he knew he wanted to do more with his life.

The job he had as a volunteer firefighter lit the spark, which led to him to enroll at Texas State Technical College.

“I was looking for something more long-term and stable,” he said.

Michael is a candidate for graduation for the Certificate 2 – Emergency Medical Services Paramedic at Texas State Technical College’s Summer 2018 Commencement on Friday, Aug. 17, at the Abilene Convention Center.

Michael is already a graduate of TSTC, having finished his Certificate 1 – Emergency Medical Services EMT in 2017.

“It’s been amazing,” he said. “The instructors we have here have been helpful inside and outside the classroom. You spend so much time working together that it’s like a family.”

Stephanie Young, a TSTC Emergency Medical Services instructor, said Michael set a standard of professionalism among his classmates.

“He is just a wonderful advocate for our program,” she said. “He’s never late, has a 4.0 grade point average, which is not easy in the medical field. He is outstanding in his clinicals. He really sets the standard.”

Michael, 36, currently works for Lifeguard Emergency Medical Services in Brownwood.

“We answer 911 calls in Brown County and take transfers across the state,” he said. “I can work on classwork between calls. I have to push through it. It’s a grueling schedule with school and clinicals.”

Michael’s clinical work was in Abilene and split between ambulance services and hospitals. He said he enjoyed being in the operating rooms the most, learning about anatomy and medical procedures.

“The students learn quality patient care and professionalism that really sets them apart from others,” Young said. “We teach in a flip classroom, which means it is all scenario-based education. It is real world, real-life scenarios from mock phone calls to action in the field. There is an extreme demand for paramedics, so much so that they are being offered hiring bonuses.”

Michael will be among the first Emergency Medical Services students attending classes in late August in the new Industrial Technology Center at TSTC in Abilene. The EMS program is relocating to the new building from the East Highway 80 campus in Abilene.

“Right now I am at another stepping stone to be a flight medic,” said Michael. “I could not have picked a better college.”

Michael is a 2000 graduate of Comanche High School.

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

 

TSTC Visionary Murray Watson Jr. Remembered for Service

(WACO) – Texas State Technical College mourned Wednesday the loss of former Texas legislator Murray Watson Jr., who filed legislation in 1969 to separate what was an arm of the Texas A&M University system into a stand-alone institution for technical education that would become TSTC.

“If there was ever a Mr. TSTC, it would be Murray Watson,” said Elton Stuckly Jr., TSTC’s executive vice chancellor and chief strategic relations officer.

Watson died Tuesday at age 86.

Watson was a state senator when he filed legislation to make the James Connally Technical Institute independent and rename it Texas State Technical Institute (now TSTC). Gov. Preston Smith signed the bill’s final version in May 1969 in Austin.

At TSTC’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in April 2015 in Austin, Watson was honored with a Founder’s Award.

Watson’s name is on TSTC’s student recreation center on Campus Drive. That factored into his wife, Greta, having been honored with the nearby Culinary Arts building being named for her.

“Murray and I walked out of the old (TSTC) system’s building, and we were about a million dollars short to build the new Culinary Arts Center,” Stuckly said. “I said, ‘Mr. Watson, I want you to think about something. Your name is on that (the recreation center) building. Wouldn’t it be nice for it (the new building) to be called the Greta W. Watson Culinary Arts Center? If you give us a million dollars, you could look at each other forever.’ It wasn’t a couple of weeks later that he called and said he was going to do it.”

Stuckly said Watson was a mentor who would give him advice.

“He always stayed in contact with me by email,” Stuckly said. “He was always looking for ways and ideas of how to make TSTC a better college.”

Stuckly said he and Watson always found much to talk about.

“He grew up in Mart, and I was raised in Penelope,” Stuckly said. “He always wanted to ask about TSTC first, then talk about farm cattle and his feed store and what I used to do on the farm. He said, ‘Elton, there aren’t many people that I can talk to who relate to those times.’”

Verna Lastrapes, a TSTC college outreach specialist, grew up knowing the Watson family in Mart. She said Watson’s family owned the local feed store, which she would visit as a four-year-old with her father at least twice a week to catch up with residents.

“Murray Jr. was a senior at Mart High School then,” she said. “I knew him well because he and my sister, Barbara, were friends.”

Pete Rowe, TSTC’s vice president for institutional development, hauled hay for Watson when he was a teenager in Mart. Rowe also graduated from Mart High School.

“It’s a personal loss for me because I loved him so much,” Rowe said. “He was a great mentor to me. He and Mrs. Watson have always been very kind to me and have done a lot for me in my life and career.”

Lastrapes said residents in Mart thought Watson would be president one day.

“He did not become president, but he did become our state representative and our state senator,” she said. “As a teenager, I remember helping campaign for him. Just about everyone in Mart campaigned for him.”

The feed store factored into Watson’s law career.

“When he lost the campaign for U.S. representative and went into private law practice, he had his office in Waco and one in Mart above the feed store,” Lastrapes said. “For years that is where he conducted all legal transactions with my daddy and other rural area farmers and businessmen.”

Rowe said Watson raised cattle andis sure he must have encountered on his ranch some of what TSTC teaches today.

“Murray was a highly intelligent person,” he said. “He was way ahead of the curve in the education field. He really studied education. He knew what to do.”

Lastrapes worked several years at the Brazos Higher Education Service Corp. Inc., which financed student loans. Watson was one of the organization’s founders.

“He had his own time schedule,” she said. “We began to say, ‘The starting time is when Murray Watson gets there.’ That was for everything!”

John K. Hatchel, chair of the TSTC Board of Regents, worked with Watson as a member of the Brazos Higher Education Service’s board of directors.

“He was very quiet, but he was consistent,” Hatchel said. “If there was a person who needed something or help, he was the first in line to do his part. He did it not expecting any accolades or thank-you’s. He just did it as a person.”

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

 

TSTC Welding Provides Opportunities for Area Jobs

(BRECKENRIDGE) – One of Stephens County’s largest industries is oil and gas, and with that comes the need for qualified welders.

“There is always a lot of demand in the oil industry for welders and they pay well also,” said Virgil Moore, executive director of the Breckenridge Economic Development Corp. “There is always a shortage it seems like. Texas State Technical College fills that gap.”

And, there are plenty of jobs for TSTC’s Welding Technology graduates to consider.

The Abilene-Breckenridge area has more than 300 welding jobs open now, said Steve Collins, business and resource consultant at Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas in Abilene.

“There are so many welding jobs available right now that they can’t fill a lot of their positions,” he said.

Some jobs in welding in the Big Country do not involve oil and gas.

Southern Bleacher Co. in Graham has 35 welders among its 150 employees. The company produces bleachers, support structures, decking systems and coatings for school districts, universities, fairgrounds and event venues throughout the nation.

“We go through phases when a lot of people join the Southern Bleacher family, they do not leave,” said Sarah Lundgren, the company’s communications director. “Our turnover is pretty small.”

But, Lundgren said the company occasionally has hiring campaigns for welders. The company and TSTC have partnered together in the past.

“Our welders are not hired for specific jobs,” she said. “They work on all jobs. There are different welding areas of the shop and have different responsibilities.”

Stephen Hope, a TSTC Welding Technology instructor in Breckenridge, said students typically have jobs when they graduate. He said students have recently found work at ProFrac in Cisco and Tiger Manufacturing Co. in Abilene.

Jobs for welders, cutters, solderers and brazers nationwide are expected to grow to more than 427,000 through 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A majority of these jobs are expected to be in manufacturing.

TSTC in Breckenridge offers a three-semester structural welding certificate which includes classes teaching blueprint reading, fabrication, layout and technical calculations.

Registration for fall classes is ongoing right now. For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.

 

TSTC in Abilene to Introduce New Electrical Power and Controls Program This Fall

(ABILENE) – A new way to study power technology that keeps electricity flowing will debut in August in the Big Country.

Texas State Technical College will offer the Associate of Applied Science degree in Electrical Power and Controls this fall at the new Industrial Technology Center on Navajo Trail in Abilene. The degree is the first of its kind to be offered at TSTC’s four West Texas campuses.

Some of the skills that Electrical Power and Controls majors can acquire include an understanding of the National Electrical Code, how direct and alternating currents function, and electrical design.

“Our guys go to work with utilities and testing and maintenance in the wind industry,” said Dan Bateman, a senior instructor in TSTC in Waco’s Electrical Power and Controls program. “A lot of companies will hire a contractor to maintain their substations and generators. The companies come here to interview.”

The Woodlands – Houston – Sugar Land area has the highest number of electrical and electronics engineering technicians in Texas with more than 3,700, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. West Texas, excluding Amarillo, Lubbock, Midland and Odessa, had about 200 technician jobs.

Some of the other jobs graduates can go into include electrical and electronics repairers for substations, powerhouses and relays, and electrical and electronics engineering technicians.

Ryan Bartholomew, a human resources consultant at AEP Texas in Abilene, said he cannot consider applicants for jobs in the field without an associate degree. He said AEP Texas has hired TSTC Electrical Power and Controls graduates in the past.

“I build relationships with people and have phone conversations and try to make a cognitive effort to email TSTC and say, ‘When is your next graduating class? I have this job coming open,’” Bartholomew said.

The program’s instructor in Abilene, Kevin Staton, owned an electrical business in Virginia before moving this summer to join TSTC. He said students are in for a “wonderful experience” with the hands-on learning.

“You have to respect electricity or it will hurt you,” Staton said. “There is one thing you can count on, and that is always having a job in this field. It’s going to be hard for a computer or anything to take over this kind of trade.”

The Electrical Power and Controls program is part of TSTC’s Money-Back Guarantee, which promises graduates will secure jobs in their field within six months of graduation or receive their tuition money back.

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