Category Archives: Sweetwater

TSTC in West Texas Holds Fall 2018 Commencement

(ABILENE) – More than 140 graduates received certificates and associate degrees at Texas State Technical College’s Fall 2018 Commencement held Monday, Dec. 10, at the Abilene Convention Center. Graduates from TSTC’s four West Texas campuses in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater were recognized.

For Ronnie Pitts, an instructor and statewide department head in the Emergency Medical Services program at Abilene, watching his students achieve their educational goals does not get tiring. It was especially significant when one student bestowed upon him an honorary Phi Theta Kappa stole as a thank-you.

“This is the event that makes everything we do as instructors worthwhile,” Pitts said. “Being able to watch our students succeed is what we live for. But, to be given this honor on top of it all is a special recognition that I greatly appreciate.”

 

Students could be found thanking their instructors and excitedly talking about having accepted job offers.

Chris Russell, an Army veteran and member of Phi Theta Kappa, received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Environmental Technology Compliance. He started working full time last Monday at Clean Harbors.

“I worked in the oil field after the Army and saw that there was a way to make good money while staying clean and dry,” Russell said. “So now I get to do what I enjoy and be comfortable.”

During the commencement ceremony, Julian Alvarez III, the commissioner representing labor with the Texas Workforce Commission, encouraged students to be humble in their success and spend time with successful people.

“You will face careers, not jobs, the rest of your life,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez is a first-generation college graduate. He said that, just like TSTC did for him when he was a student, the graduates have received the tools needed to think for themselves.

“You are ready to meet those challenges you will face in the workplace,” Alvarez said.

Many of Monday’s graduates were inspired and led to success by family members.

Mary Mares of Brownwood, who earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing from Sweetwater, said it was her son who inspired her to pursue her degree.

“My son was born with craniosynostosis, and it was his birth that motivated me to get this degree so I can help him and others to the best of my ability,” Mares said.

Phillip Cruz of Sweetwater received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Wind Energy Technology. He said his 6-year-old daughter was his inspiration for pursuing his studies.

“It’s a second career,” Cruz said. “I used to be a police officer. The country is changing to green energy. I figured I would help the country move forward.”

Cruz is considering job offers at energy companies in Michigan and Texas.

Earlier in the day, the Nursing programs held pinning ceremonies for graduates in Abilene and Sweetwater.

For more information, log on to tstc.edu.

 

TSTC and Colorado High School Work Together to Keep Students Moving

(SWEETWATER) — From horse-drawn carriages to vehicles that reach upwards of 160 mph, the transportation industry is constantly moving forward. To help students keep up with the evolving industry, Texas State Technical College hosted a program highlight day that allowed high school students from Colorado City to learn about transportation jobs in a hands-on environment.

“We’re trying to bring in the new age of mechanic-technicians and give them the skills they need to succeed,” Mike Myers, head automotive instructor at TSTC in Sweetwater, said.

The automotive industry employs over 749,900 technicians and mechanics nationally and is expected to grow to 795,800 by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Automotive technicians are a dying breed,” Myers said. “We hope these students will stay in the program because it gives them an option to stay local and learn in a very strong program.”

For some students in attendance, the automotive industry runs in their family. Nathan Read, 17, a senior at Colorado High School, said his father has been a mechanic for over 20 years and he hopes to follow in his footsteps.

“I want to build my own shop someday,” Read said. “This a great experience because I really enjoy the hands-on training TSTC has to offer, and I plan on coming here after graduating high school.”

Students had the chance to change headlights, clean parts and explore different job opportunities available in the industry.

“This was great because I wanted to learn how to replace a headlight and got to do it,” Brandon Myers, 18, a senior at Colorado High School, said. “I like TSTC, and love that the school sponsored us to visit. I’m planning on coming to the automotive program after I graduate.”

For those interested in the automotive industry, TSTC offers associate degrees and certificates of completion at campuses located in Harlingen, Sweetwater and Waco.

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

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 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 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 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 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.

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 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 in Sweetwater to Host Registration Events This Summer

(SWEETWATER) – Texas State Technical College will have two Registration Rally events this summer in Sweetwater.

The events will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on June 12 and July 26 in the Sears Building on Homer K. Taylor Drive. The events are part of an effort to make the registration process as easy as possible for incoming students planning to take classes in the fall semester.

“We make it fun,” said Devin Crenshaw, a TSTC college outreach representative. “They can come and do every single thing in one day. It’s easier for people that don’t want to deal with the lengthy process and do a lot of back and forth. They can just come and get it done and not wait until the first class day.”

Visitors can take campus and housing tours and talk to faculty members about the seven technical programs offered at TSTC in Sweetwater, including Automotive Technology, Electromechanical Technology and Wind Energy Technology.

People interested in enrolling should bring a copy of their driver’s license, high school transcript or GED, any college transcripts, proof of bacterial meningitis vaccination, housing application and TSI scores.

TSTC is having registration events at its 10 campuses throughout the state this summer. For information on the closest Registration Rally, log on to tstc.edu/rally.

For more information, contact TSTC in Sweetwater at 325-235-7300 or visit tstc.edu.