Category Archives: West Texas

TSTC Student Takes Degree Overseas

(SWEETWATER) — Living in a foreign country is a dream to most, but getting paid to live in a foreign country is the way Texas State Technical College student Kaitlin Sullivan is realizing that dream.

Sullivan is expected to graduate this fall from TSTC in Sweetwater with an associate degree in Wind Energy Technology and has already accepted a job with Koenig & Bauer, the oldest functioning printing press manufacturer in the world. She will complete her apprenticeship in Germany for two six-month terms, then train with a technician in Dallas for three months until being upgraded to a technician job herself.

“This is an amazing opportunity,” Sullivan said. “I am so excited to travel and learn more about the culture and lifestyle in Germany, all while doing something I’m genuinely interested in.”

Although this is not the path Sullivan ever expected to be on, she is not looking back.

“I did the traditional four-year college, how ‘society’ expects you to, and I couldn’t find a job I liked,” Sullivan said. “So after a year of job searching, I decided I needed something different and came to TSTC.”

Sullivan completed her bachelor’s degree at Tarleton State University, but after having trouble finding a job she was interested in, she took some inspiration from her hometown and made a change.

“I’m from Dumas in North Texas, where there are tons of wind turbines,” Sullivan said. “They’re fascinating to me. So I did some research, and TSTC popped up with the right program.”

Upon arriving at TSTC, Sullivan immediately impressed her instructors with her drive and dedication to education. Wind Energy Technology instructor Billie Jones taught Sullivan in at least one class each semester and recognized her ambition.

“There is nothing Kaitlin can’t do once she dedicates her mind to it,” Jones said. “One of the first things she said to me was that she was in competition with everyone else, just that no one knew it yet. I believe it was that mentality and her willingness to learn that got her where she is today.”

While the job Sullivan accepted is not in her degree field, it is associated with the sister program, Electromechanical Technology. Since there was only a five-course difference between it and Wind Energy Technology, Electromechanical Technology instructor Ron Rendon agreed to meet with Sullivan and help her cross-train.

“Kaitlin is a great leader and very willing to learn. She doesn’t like not knowing,” Rendon said. “She will be a huge asset wherever she works, and I think she’ll do amazing things.”  

For anyone hesitant to take the alternative route from a four-year degree, Sullivan says don’t be afraid.

“People told me I shouldn’t or couldn’t do it,” Sullivan said. “And I’m glad I didn’t listen because I got this job offer two semesters before graduation. Don’t let them tell you you can’t, and if they do, prove them wrong.”

Sullivan is expected to graduate on Monday, December 10, at 7 p.m. in the Abilene Convention Center.

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

TSTC Alumna Uses Degree, Experience to Help Heal Others

(BROWNWOOD) — Battling addiction takes determination, drive and a support system. Texas State Technical College alumna Stephanie Narramore used these tools in her own recovery and now uses them to help others.

Narramore graduated in 2015 from TSTC in Brownwood with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Chemical Dependency Counseling and is now Associate Director of Clinical Services at Starlite Recovery Center in Center Point, Texas.

“TSTC was a really important part of me changing and my recovery. I suffered from a (drug) addiction for 14 years, and it was time for a change for my daughter and for me,” Narramore said.

When Narramore arrived at TSTC, she was nervous to be going back to school as a nontraditional student but was surprised by the support she found.

“I was scared,” Narramore said. “I was really scared to be going to school at my age, 38, but my instructors and the staff were amazing. They helped me to see something in myself that I didn’t at the time. They put in just as much work as I did.”

Elizabeth Jones, a Chemical Dependency Counseling instructor, recognized the willingness to change in Narramore.

“Stephanie came to school determined, prepared and totally ready to make a change in her life,” said Jones, who was also a mentor to Narramore. “She knew that hard work was in her future, and she never walked away from a challenge. She is a role model for other students in the Chemical Dependency Counseling program.”

Driven by her desire to create a better life as a single mother, Narramore earned not only her degree, but also a list of honors along the way.

“I was the guest speaker at my graduation, the Board of Regents Medal of Honor recipient and president of the honor society Phi Theta Kappa. It was very validating,” Narramore said.

Narramore’s attitude and will to succeed left a lasting impression on the people she encountered at TSTC.

“Stephanie is hardworking and determined. She sets goals and doesn’t let hurdles get in her way.” Raquel Mata, associate provost of TSTC in Brownwood, said.

In her current position at Starlite Recovery Center, Narramore says she has found a way to help heal others.

“I’ve been where these patients have been, so I know exactly what they’re going through,” Narramore said. “I found my purpose, and it’s being able to make a difference in someone else’s life.”

The TSTC Chemical Dependency Counseling program is available at the Abilene, Breckenridge and Brownwood campuses.

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

TSTC Nursing Graduates Needed to Fill Home Health Jobs

(BRECKENRIDGE) – As Home Care and Hospice Month is commemorated nationwide in November, the Big Country has a need for qualified nurses to aid patients who want health care in the comfort of their homes.

Marchelle Taylor, a vocational nursing program director at Texas State Technical College, said graduates are encouraged to work in clinical settings first before moving into home health.

“Home health care is pretty independent, and new graduates don’t have the experience to work independently,” Taylor said. “Many do after getting some experience in clinics, nursing homes and hospitals.”

In Texas, there are more than 319,000 Medicare beneficiaries who use home health, according to the Alliance for Home Health. More than 60 percent of them have at least five chronic conditions.

In early November, Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas in Abilene had more than 80 openings in the 19-county region for nurses to work in home health, hospitals and other medical facilities. Steve Collins, a business and resource consultant at Workforce Solutions, said there is a nursing shortage in the region indicated by the number of open job positions.

Job experience is important, said representatives of two Stephens County home health agencies.

James Curtis, a TSTC nursing alumnus and branch office manager at Renew Home Health in Breckenridge, said knowing the county’s nurses helps him fill job openings when needed. The business works with clients in a 45-mile radius of Breckenridge.

“I require one year of experience,” Curtis said. “You never know what kind of situation you can get into.”

Kim Mahan, an administrator at Beyond Faith Homecare and Rehab in Breckenridge, has hired TSTC alumni in the past. The business is a branch of the Graham location, which serves clients in a 50-mile radius.

“One of the struggles with the staff coming here, especially on the home health side, is the documentation,” she said. “It is extremely stringent. There is a lot of documentation that is involved in home health.”

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

TSTC Diesel Equipment Technology Program Helps Meet Growing Demand

(SWEETWATER) – Jackson Gardner, 19, of Abilene sees a big future in his career plans as he works toward a certificate in the Diesel Equipment Technology program at Texas State Technical College.

“The demand for diesel mechanics in big companies sparked my interest,” he said.

Gardner will not be finished after he graduates in 2019 because he wants to pursue certificates in Automotive Technology and Welding Technology.

“I believe it will lead to many more job opportunities since I will be a well-rounded employee,” Gardner said.

Diesel service technician jobs are expected to grow to more than 304,000 by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Employees are looking for students that have basic technical skills and are eager to learn,” said Mark Koslan, a TSTC Diesel Equipment Technology instructor. “As with most businesses, they want employees that are hardworking and dependable with good communication skills.”

Koslan said some of the area options for graduates include truck and equipment dealerships, independent repair facilities, fleet truck companies, and the oil and gas industry.

Ryan Herrera, operations manager for the Concho Valley Rural Transit District in San Angelo, has seen the impact the oil and gas industry has on getting maintenance done on his fleet of 62 vehicles, including five diesel-engine buses.

The transit district does not have its own maintenance facility, so work has to be locally contracted out. Herrera said as the oil and gas industry booms, there are less workers available to do preventive maintenance. As the oil and gas industry’s impact decreases, there are more workers, and demand for repair work is high.

Herrera said the transit district has also seen the impact on its drivers.

“We have a good benefits package here,” he said. “When the boom started back up about a year and a half ago, we lost a lot of drivers. At the end of the day, they realize they had it made here. We are always looking for drivers.”

Herrera said there are plans for the transit district, which serves 12 Concho Valley counties, to build an on-site maintenance facility. This means the transit district will have a need in the future for diesel mechanics and other workers.

“We are doing the planning right now,” Herrera said. “We will go to the state to ask for money to help build the facility.”

Oklahoma City-based Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores Inc., which has a location on Interstate 20 in Sweetwater, uses online job boards, recruiters, and partnerships with technical colleges and universities to find qualified diesel mechanics. Some of the qualities the company seeks in job candidates include up to two years of experience working with Class 7 and 8 trucks, knowledge of basic electrical theory and troubleshooting, and the willingness to mentor diesel mechanic apprentices.

“It’s very difficult to find candidates to fill diesel mechanic positions,” said Tara Carr, a media relations supervisor for Love’s. “This is not Love’s-specific, (but) the entire travel/transportation industry is feeling the effects of a lack of skilled tradesmen. Mechanics have options; getting them through our doors is only half the battle.”

Roy Banda, 32, of Comanche is studying for the Associate of Applied Science degree in Diesel Equipment Technology. Banda, a 2004 Comanche High School graduate, chose to pursue the field because of its specializations.

“I feel great about my job plans and outcomes, and I am willing to relocate for employment opportunities,” said Banda, a former U.S. Marine. “I already have companies interested in me, and I am looking for great benefits for my family.”

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

 

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.