Category Archives: Sweetwater

TSTC Nursing Student Prepares for Three-peat at SkillsUSA

(SWEETWATER) – Winning is so nice, she did it twice. Now Kacee Merrifield wants it again, and so does one of her classmates.

Merrifield is a nursing student enrolled in the associate degree program at Texas State Technical College in Sweetwater. She has competed at SkillsUSA two years in a row, winning state both times and placing nationally.

“It’s a very validating feeling when you get to test your skills against others in your industry, but it’s so much more than just winning a medal,” Merrifield said.

SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. In 2017 Merrifield placed first in state for Health Knowledge Bowl, continuing on to win fourth at nationals. In 2018 she won first in state for Nurse Assisting and sixth at nationals. She will compete in Practical Nursing this year.

“I love that SkillsUSA offers a platform to meet other professionals. You meet so many people and make friends and get to travel. I really enjoyed what Skills has done for me,” Merrifield said.

Hoping to win his second first-place title is fellow nursing student Corbin Calsoncin. Calsoncin and Merrifield both graduated from TSTC in Breckenridge with a certificate of completion in Vocational Nursing in 2018. Calsoncin is also currently enrolled in the nursing program at TSTC in Sweetwater.

“I was nervous my first couple times I competed, but I feel better now and am more prepared,” Calsoncin said.

Calsoncin placed second at state in Medical Math in 2017, but placed first in Math in 2018 and went on to place ninth at nationals. Calsoncin will compete in Medical Math again this year.

Not only do Merrifield and Calsoncin compete in SkillsUSA at the collegiate level, but they also judge the high school level.

“Judging is a chance for them to give back and share their experiences with others,” Marchelle Taylor, TSTC nursing instructor and West Texas SkillsUSA coordinator, said. “Skills allows them to interact with other students and industry around the state and nation.”

Merrifield and Calsoncin will compete at the SkillsUSA 2019 Leadership and Skills Conference on April 12-14 at TSTC in Waco.

Both students encourage anyone interested in nursing to visit TSTC and take advantage of the opportunities available with SkillsUSA.

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

TSTC in Sweetwater nursing students Corbin Calsoncin, left, and Kacee Merrifield, right, prepare to compete at SkillsUSA in April. 

TSTC Student Veteran Uses Education to Fuel Future

(Sweetwater) – How would you define a hero? As a parent? As a soldier? Texas State Technical College student Roy Banda is all of that and more.

Banda, 32, is a former Marine now pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in Diesel Equipment Technology at TSTC in Sweetwater while fostering five children at home in Brownwood.

“I was working in a factory, with no way to move up anymore. So I talked to my wife, and now I’m using my GI Bill to create a career,” Banda said.

Banda served four years in the Marine Corps as a rifleman between 2007 and 2011, with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“My time in the Marines helped me a lot with discipline, obedience and work ethic in everyday actions and now school,” Banda said.

One example of Banda’s self-discipline is his dedication to be early for class each day, despite an almost two-hour commute.

“I drive half the distance Roy does every day, and he still manages to get here before me,” Mark Koslan, master instructor for DET, said. “He is dedicated, he’s a family man, he’s a veteran, and I have a lot of respect for him and his initiative to find a career path.”

Even though Banda attends school full time, he and his wife have a houseful of six kids, five of whom are foster children they plan to adopt.

“We decided to foster just to help out, then fell in love with them,” Banda said.

Banda will compete in Diesel Equipment Technology at the SkillsUSA 2019 Postsecondary Leadership and Skills Conference on April 12-14 at TSTC in Waco.

“I was nervous when I first agreed because I hadn’t really had any mechanical training before TSTC. But, just in the couple semesters I’ve been here I feel much more confident,” Banda said.  “One of the Marine Corps’ mottos is to adapt and overcome, so I’ll use that.”

Banda is expected to graduate in spring 2020 and plans to build a positive reputation so he can open a shop of his own.

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

TSTC in Sweetwater Diesel Equipment Technology student, veteran and parent Roy Banda, will compete at SkillsUSA in April. 

TSTC Alumnus Boosts Wind Energy Production

(Sweetwater) – There is change in the air: a change toward renewable energy. And Texas State Technical College alumnus John Nichols is a driving force behind that change.

Nichols graduated with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Wind Energy Technology from TSTC in Sweetwater in 2010.

He is now employed by North Dakota-based Wanzek Construction. He served as the company’s vice president of renewable energy from 2016 to 2018 and is now its senior director of business development.

Nichols credits his time at TSTC, coupled with hard work, for his success in helping to lead the charge for wind energy. He encourages others to take advantage of the rewarding industry.

“Wind energy is something exciting to be part of, and there is no better time than now to be part of the renewable energy revolution,” Nichols said.

Nichols was a nontraditional student who sold his successful real estate business in 2007 to pursue his passion for renewable energy.

“I remember John very well,” Rick Denbow, TSTC in West Texas provost, said. “Wind energy was an emerging industry at the time in far West Texas, but John saw how a technical degree from TSTC could prepare him for a great-paying career in the wind industry. I am not surprised by his success.”

After graduating from TSTC, Nichols worked for Siemens Gamesa, where he was promoted five times in six years, eventually becoming field engineering manager.

“I got to travel the world while moving up in the company,” Nichols said. “I spent 18 months in Brazil, Chile, Peru and other parts of Latin America working on wind energy projects.”

At Wanzek Construction, Nichols plays an active role in identifying new and creative ways to keep wind competitive in the renewable energy market.

“With new technology coming and the offshore market growing, we’re seeing a decrease in cost for wind energy, which makes it even more competitive with fossil fuels,” Nichols said.

In Texas, wind energy makes up 14.89 percent of energy produced statewide, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“It’s an industry on the upswing, and it’s an industry people from all walks of life can be successful in,” Billie Jones, TSTC Wind Energy Technology statewide department chair, said.

Part of Nichols’ success, and what he looks for when recruiting new talent, is common sense and life experience.

“It’s important to have a passion and interest for this field. But also to be a good technician you have to have some common sense and be comfortable around machinery. You need to be reliable and be willing to do the work,” said Nichols.

Nichols hopes others will recognize the potential available to them in wind energy.

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

TSTC in Sweetwater alumnus John Nichols helps to lead the charge for wind energy. 

TSTC in Sweetwater Partners With Local High Schools

(Sweetwater) – It’s time to start the engines and drive toward the future for many area high school students.Thanks to a partnership between their schools and Texas State Technical College, students can earn early college credit.

TSTC established a dual enrollment Automotive Technology program for Brownwood and Snyder high school sophomores, juniors and seniors in the fall of 2018, at no cost to the students themselves.

Those students can earn up to 12 college credit hours toward a certificate or an Associate of Applied Science degree in Automotive Technology and work at a local internship.  

“I feel it’s important for schools to show every viable option to our students and give them a heads-up,” Lindsay Smith, assistant principal at Brownwood High School, said.  “Our long-term hope is that we can get these students internships at facilities in Brownwood and eventually fill a need for auto techs in the community.”

Students attend class at their high school facilities but follow a carefully structured curriculum created by Rudy Cervantez, the statewide department chair for TSTC Automotive Technology.

The curriculum follows the Automotive Service Excellence Educational Foundation Alliance for Maintenance and Light Repair Standards. Students spend their sophomore and junior years working on the curriculum and their senior year working at an internship.  

“Since these schools already offer shop class, why not jump-start these students and have something to show their families that they’re working toward their futures?” Cervantez asked.

TSTC works with the instructors to ensure that they are Automotive Service Excellence-certifiedand the facilities have the right equipment.

“This is great for the students because it allows them to start early and complete early, and start earning money early,” Brian Lee, automotive instructor at Brownwood High School, said. “They can find their niche and know they’ve got a lot of jobs waiting on them because there is a huge need for technicians.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas is the second-leading state employing automotive service technicians and mechanics.

“It allows us to promote different higher education and career opportunities to the students, which encourages them to do well in school now so they can pursue all the options available to them,” Janell Martin, principal at Snyder High School, said.

Students follow the same syllabi and curriculum as they would if they were in an actual classroom at TSTC.

Brownwood High School has 30 students in the program, while Snyder High School has nine.  

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

Snyder High School students enrolled in the Automotive dual credit program with TSTC in Sweetwater replace an old car battery. 

TSTC and Goodwill-West Texas Partnership Helps Students Dress for Success

(SWEETWATER) — ’Tis the season for giving, and Goodwill-West Texas has partnered with Texas State Technical College in Abilene and Sweetwater to embrace the tradition.

In collaboration with TSTC Talent Management and Career Services, Goodwill has agreed to give graduating TSTC students vouchers for a free business professional outfit.

“Goodwill’s mission has always been to provide opportunities for people to overcome barriers,” Danielle Robertson, director of Communications and Development at Goodwill-West Texas, said. “We understand that going to an interview is stressful enough, and we want this to be one less stress.”

The initiative started when TSTC Talent Management and Career Services recognized that students may struggle financially to find business professional clothing that makes them feel confident while applying for jobs.

“TSTC provides the skills to make sure our students are qualified for the job, but we wanted to make sure they have the attire and the confidence to get the job when they interview,” Julia Humphrey, director of Talent Management and Career Services at TSTC in Abilene, said.

For students who need help preparing for interviews, creating resumes or finding a job, the Talent Management and Career Services department welcomes them to visit.

“This is just another feature we get to offer students to help them succeed,” Brittany Wilson, Career Services associate at TSTC in Sweetwater, said. “We want the best for these students.”

Goodwill encourages the community to donate gently worn professional clothes.

“We are happy to partner with TSTC because they align with our mission to help others overcome barriers,” Robertson said.

Goodwill has given over 80 vouchers for TSTC students at its campuses in Abilene and Sweetwater and plans to give more as needed.  

For more information about TSTC, log on to tstc.edu.


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.