Category Archives: Sweetwater

Towering Opportunities Available in Wind Energy

2677(SWEETWATER) – Wind Turbine Technician tops the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual list of fastest-growing jobs with a whopping 108 percent growth over the next eight years. With Texas State Technical College’s Wind Energy program, students can break into the industry in as little as one year with a certificate of completion or two years with an associate degree.

According to a report from the International Renewable Energy Agency, more than 8.1 million people worldwide are working in renewable energy jobs. Students in the Wind Energy program at TSTC learn to safely troubleshoot and repair all components of a wind turbine.

Lead Wind Energy Instructor Heath Ince said the program has seen a jump in enrollment this fall, but the biggest change came in TSTC’s industry partners.

“We’ve always had good placement in our program, but what I’ve noticed is that now we have more companies competing for our students,” Ince said. “They want to get in here and get them hired before they even graduate because of the demand for skilled wind technicians out there right now.”

NextEra Energy is one company that competes for TSTC graduates. The company, which employs a significant number of wind technicians in the United States and Canada, made job offers to several TSTC students who graduated in December.

“We’re the largest producers of renewable energy in the world, so we think about this growth every day,” said James Auld, director of External Training Initiatives at NextEra. “We come to TSTC to recruit twice a year. We present to the students and interview every student who’s interested in interviewing. We are pleased to have made job offers to several promising TSTC graduates.”

Auld attributes the company’s strong relationship with TSTC to its location in the Big Country area.

“We have very large wind farm sites very close to Sweetwater,” Auld said. “It allows us to take local folks who are educated locally and put them to work near home. It’s a big win for everyone.”

Ince said the fact that the job is the fastest-growing in the nation didn’t come as a complete shock to him.

“We were kind of expecting it,” Ince said. “Our other wind instructor and I have been going to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) conference every year, so we’ve been kind of up to date. We knew there was going to be growth and that the demand was going to be there. We’re just now really starting to see it.”

Last week Zippia, a company that helps people find the right career, named wind turbine service technician as the top-growing job in Texas, with 129.2 percent growth.

Classes at TSTC began Monday, Jan. 9. TSTC will begin registering for the summer semester on April 3.
For more information on TSTC’s Wind Energy Technology, or to apply, visit

Hospital, TSTC Provide Economic Power in Sweetwater

(SWEETWATER) – Ryan Moore was inspired to study nursing as she saw the care her brother received after a bad automobile accident.

“He was in the hospital for quite a while,” said Moore, 39, of Sweetwater. “The accident was serious and he had to learn how to walk, talk, tie his shoes – he had to learn how to do things for himself all over. Being with him in the hospital setting made me decide that’s what I wanted to do.”

Moore graduated from Texas State Technical College in 2001 with a Certificate 2 in Vocational Nursing. That same year, she began working as a nurse at Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital in Sweetwater. Moore has worked in medical surgery and now deals with orthopedic patients on surgery preparations, insurance, X-rays and relationship building.

Rolling Plains is one of the top four employers in Sweetwater with more than 300 workers, according to the Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development Inc. The medical center has a range of services for Nolan County residents including gynecology, nuclear medicine, physical therapy, sleep examinations and ophthalmology. TSTC graduates are a big part of the hospital’s work in nursing and information technology.

Having a hospital and technical college in the same county is a win for economic development because the city’s core businesses are in health care, manufacturing, conventional and renewable energy, logistics and hospitality. Having local emergency and health care options are factors for companies when deciding where to locate facilities, said Ken Becker, executive director of the Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development Inc.

“Each of these industry sectors has special needs when it comes to training,” said Becker. “TSTC has developed training programs to meet the specific needs of individual companies to industry sectors. As job opportunities and technology continue to evolve, continuous training will be required for entry-level to advanced manufacturing and everything in between.”

The technical college offers a four-semester Certificate 2 in Vocational Nursing in Sweetwater. Students study anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, neonatal nursing, surgical nursing and other skills. Nursing graduates must be licensed by the Texas Board of Nursing to work in healthcare environments.

LaBritta Rule, 41, of Sweetwater works in internal medicine and has been at the hospital periodically since the mid-1990s when she began in the admissions department. She graduated from TSTC with a Vocational Nursing certificate in 1999.

“I loved my instructors and everything they taught me,” Rule said. “I loved being able to do my clinicals at the hospital and be able to have primary nurses that I knew and was comfortable with teaching me. I loved being able to go to work following graduation at this hospital that I love being part of.”

For more information on TSTC, go to


Three TSTC in West Texas Employees Earn Chancellor’s Excellence Award

2016wt-chancellors-awards-luncheon(ABILENE) – Texas State Technical College in West Texas honored the recipients of this year’s Chancellor’s Excellence Award at a luncheon Friday in Abilene. Three West Texas employees were chosen as recipients.

This year’s award winners are Adam Harvey, lead application administrator at TSTC in Sweetwater; Griselda Sanchez, community standards liaison at TSTC in Sweetwater; and Andy Weaver, health science statewide division director at TSTC in Abilene.

The Chancellor’s Excellence Award began in 2001, and over the past 15 years 270 TSTC employees have received the honor. Recipients are chosen based on outstanding contributions and achievements, commitment to excellence, and character. Honorees serve as agents of change in the advancement of TSTC initiatives.


TSTC Employee Celebrates 40th Work Anniversary

dsc_0660(SWEETWATER) – When Si Acuña began working at Texas State Technical College in Sweetwater, he thought he would only be there for a few years. Now he finds himself in his 40th year at TSTC.

Acuña began working at the college in 1976 as a lab assistant in Automotive Technology.

“I was thinking I would stick around and see how long I was going to stay,” Acuña said. “I thought I would maybe go and do something else after that. I started as a lab assistant and moved on to an instructor, then moved on to master instructor for many years, and I was the department chair for years on and off. The program just kept going and going.”

With the development of advanced technology in cars, Acuña has seen much change throughout his time at TSTC.

“In the last 15 years or so, technology has changed so rapidly,” Acuña said. “The curriculum has changed quite a bit to keep up. In my time here, we’ve grown from being in a small building to a larger building where we are now. We have a lot more space and more classrooms with a well-equipped shop.”

He keeps up with the technology by reading and maintaining membership in professional organizations.

“I’ve been a member of many organizations that send out information and host conferences, like the Mobile Air Conditioning Society, the Automotive Service Association and the Automatic Transmission Association,” Acuña said. “Being part of those organizations, going to conferences and continuing to study on my own, I’m learning all the time.”

Acuña is proud to have made a difference at TSTC.

“I’m glad I was part of it,” Acuña said. “I helped to train a lot of students. One of the things I really like is working with the students and training them. The training is what’s really kept me here so long, being able to pass on my knowledge to other people.”

Overall, his favorite moment in teaching is seeing his students succeed.

“I have a lot of favorite moments, but I guess what is the best is when I see them cross the stage and they get a job,” Acuña said. “That’s the greatest one.”


Sweetwater Texas National Bank President Presents TSTC with Scholarship Check

TSTC Sweetwater Check Presentation sm(SWEETWATER) — Bill Johnson, president and CEO of Texas National Bank in Sweetwater, presented Texas State Technical College with a $1,000 check to go toward the Texan Success Scholarship Fund at a 3 p.m. presentation Wednesday, July 13, at Texas National Bank.

The Texan Success Scholarship is a “non-need based” $1,000 award for new, full-time students to provide cost assistance for the fall semester at TSTC.

Students are nominated for the scholarship by a high school academic or career counselor, a TSTC recruiter or TSTC faculty member. Students are then evaluated and can be awarded if they are eligible for high school graduation, have a minimum 2.0 grade-point average, have completed the conditional admission status for TSTC and demonstrated the potential to succeed in their desired technical program.

Johnson said Texas National Bank chose to make this donation because they share TSTC’s view of the importance of helping Texans prepare for the high-tech jobs required in today’s economy.

“We agree that not everyone needs to spend the time or money to obtain a four-year bachelor’s degree,” said Johnson. “Graduates of TSTC are able to enter the workforce quicker and oftentimes at compensation rates higher than those available to many graduates of liberal arts universities. The fact that TSTC in West Texas is right here in our backyard is icing on the cake.”

TSTC in West Texas Provost Eliska Smith said it’s exciting to see momentum building in Sweetwater for the Texan Success Scholarship Campaign.

“This donation means TSTC can contribute to strengthening Texas’ workforce,” Smith said. “With the Texan Success Scholarship, we are able to help more Sweetwater-area students start their careers in welding, diesel, automotive, wind, nursing and more.”

Texas National Bank in Sweetwater has supported the college many times throughout the bank’s 21-year history. Johnson served for several years on the board of directors of The TSTC Foundation. He also served for many years on the board of the Rolling Plains Technical Foundation before it merged with The TSTC Foundation.

TSTC is registering for the fall semester through Aug. 22. For more information on programs offered, or to apply, visit

TSTC Students to Challenge for Gold

(WEST TEXAS) – Two students from Texas State Technical College in West Texas are preparing to travel to Louisville, Kentucky to contend for gold medals at SkillsUSA’s National Leadership and Skills Conference.


Rachael Thompson will compete in First Aid-CPR and Jon William Lewis will compete in Information Technology Systems at the conference, which is scheduled for June 20 to 24. More than 6,000 high school and college students are expected to compete in about 100 contests.


“We are very proud,” TSTC in West Texas Provost Eliska Smith said. “We are excited that we will be represented again at SkillsUSA. It’s wonderful for them to have this experience to compete against other college students around the nation.”


The TSTC Foundation honored the students with a special send-off on Friday, June 10, in Abilene.


Winning a gold medal at the national competition can add another credential to students’ resumes and make them more marketable when job hunting.


“SkillsUSA is an excellent opportunity to get the attention of important people, whether it be the contest chair who is selected from industry or a potential employer through one’s resume,” said Lewis, 21, of Abilene and a May graduate in Computer Networking and Systems Administration.


Students from TSTC in West Texas, Waco and Harlingen won more than 30 gold medals, and more than 70 medals total, during SkillsUSA’s statewide postsecondary competition in early April in Waco.


“The biggest success I think we have had this year for our campuses in West Texas has been the amount of medals we have taken home this year,” said Crystal Latham-Alford, a SkillsUSA campus director for the Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater campuses. “Also, this is the second year we have been up in participation numbers in the last five years. We continue to grow and the future looks bright.”


SkillsUSA is a professional organization teaching technical, academic and employability skills that help college students pursue successful careers. Members build these skills through student-led team meetings, contests, leadership conferences and other activities.


Registration continues for the fall semester at TSTC. For more information, log on to

Brothers Climb to New Heights at TSTC

Chavarria bros

(SWEETWATER) – When Blake Chavarria began taking Wind Energy classes at Texas State Technical College in 2010, he didn’t know he would be influencing his younger brothers’ college decisions. But now, almost four years after Blake graduated, his brother Aaron finds himself in his third semester in the program, and the youngest, Andrew, starts in the fall.

After hearing about the booming Wind Energy field while in high school, Blake chose this technology to combine his passion with his previous experience.

“Wind Energy was something that always interested me because, first of all, heights are my thing. I love dealing with heights,” he said. “But, also because I had worked in construction on the electrical side, wiring houses and stuff like that. I saw the program as a stepping stone for more knowledge with what I liked and what sparked my interest.”

Blake now works as a substation and transmission electrician at Oncor, and he’s been there since January 2013, just a short time after graduating. Due to electrical skills learned in TSTC’s Wind Energy Technology, Oncor often hires graduates of the program to work for them.

“Learning the basic components of a wind turbine – the gears, mechanical parts and hydraulic systems – all of that ties into the mechanical things we deal with,” Blake said. “As far as the electrical, everything that we did in school for the wind turbines – learning how to troubleshoot, read schematics, use small electrical components, learning all the anti-numbers – every bit of it transferred over into my type of work.”

After seeing Blake’s success at TSTC, Aaron followed suit and began the program after graduating from high school in 2015.

“The program created a great opportunity for Blake,” Aaron said. “So I wanted to go into Wind Energy because it was great financially, first and foremost, and second, because of the opportunity to get a good job.”

Aaron said Blake has always set an example for him, whether it was a good one or a bad one.

“He’s made some mistakes in the past and I’ve learned from those,” Aaron said. “He’s also done a lot of good things. So I’ve followed his good steps, and done the opposite of what he’s done in the bad situations. It’s been positive and negative, but it’s been fun.”

So far, Aaron’s favorite part about TSTC has been the hands-on experience.

“I’ve been so used to going to regular school, so I’ve enjoyed being able to learn something other than basic math and science,” Aaron said. “I really enjoy learning the fundamentals of electricity. I’ve climbed the towers a couple of times already. It was the experience of a lifetime. It’s a big reason I’m getting into the industry – the experience of working 80 meters in the air. I believe I’ve chosen the right career path.”

While Andrew looks up to his brothers, he said he mainly chose Wind Energy Technology because he also loves heights.

“That’s one main reason,” Andrew said, “but I also find it very interesting to see how they work and how they can help make our earth green.”

Andrew is excited to begin school in the fall.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how exactly a windmill works, what it takes for it to work properly and how to fix the defects they have at times,” he said.

Blake said he wasn’t surprised to learn that his brothers wanted to join the industry also.

“They saw the passion that I had when I was at TSTC and going through the Wind Energy program,” Blake said. “I would always share with them what I was learning and all the cool facts, and what’s coming in the future, the opportunities and what doors it can open for you. I told Aaron about the American Wind Energy Association conference and now he’s there right now!”

Blake is honored that they chose to study Wind Energy.

“I’m very proud that my brothers have chosen these steps rather than to throw their life away on something meaningless,” he said. “It just makes me really happy, really joyous, that they’re following these footsteps because I set an example as their oldest brother. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

TSTC is registering now for the fall semester. For more information on the Wind Energy program, visit

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Future TSTC Students to Decorate Sweetwater HS Ceiling Tiles

(Sweetwater)- Sweetwater High School students who have been accepted to TSTC will decorate ceiling tiles in the name of their future college Friday at 9:30 a.m. TSTC will provide paint, pennants and other materials the students can use in decorating their tiles. A recruiting representative and TSTC in West Texas Provost Eliska Smith will be present at the gathering.

This will be the first year that students attending TSTC will decorate tiles. Provost Smith said she wanted to help the students take part in the high school’s long-time tradition, partially, to send a message.

“Their choice of attending Texas State Technical College should be just as celebrated as any other college choice,” said Smith. “We may be the ‘hometown college,’ but students should proudly celebrate the fact that they will be getting a great college education for jobs that are highly technical and in-demand. Their choice will lead them to great-paying careers, and with far less debt, creating a stronger foundation for their future.”

TSTC hopes to bring more opportunities to the Sweetwater area.

“With our dual credit partnership with Sweetwater High School and their upcoming expansion of career and technical education facilities pending approval of the bond, we look forward to having more and more students from SISD entering TSTC career programs having already earned college credit,” added Smith.

TSTC’s newly enrolled students will pursue degrees in Automotive Technology, Nursing, Welding and Emergency Medical Services.
WHAT: Sweetwater High School seniors decorating ceiling tiles in the name of TSTC, where they have been accepted for the fall semester.

WHEN: 9:30 a.m. on Friday, April 15, 2016

WHERE: Sweetwater High School, near the picnic tables (weather permitting). Please check into the office for more information (ask for counselor’s office).


TSTC Holds Annual Spring Team Challenge Cook-off

(SWEETWATER) – Texas State Technical College held their annual Spring Team Challenge Cook-off Tuesday, bringing together faculty, staff and students aspiring to show off their grilling talents during a fun-filled day of camaraderie.

Competing teams were challenged to come up with dishes based on chicken, steak, potatoes, beans and a mystery item. This year’s mystery items were squash and zucchini. There was also an award for “best camp,” given to the teams who put the most effort into creating a theme for their cooking area.

Team “Los Chivos” was the Overall Champion, bringing home second place awards in steak, chicken, beans, mystery item and the best camp categories.

“Brown Chicken Brown Cow” out of Abilene took second Overall Champion, with first place in chicken and best camp, second place in potatoes, and third in steak and mystery item.

“Brown Sugar” took home third Overall Champion, and first place awards in steak and mystery item.

Veronica Maldonado, an Electromechanical Technology student, was part of the Los Chivos team.

“I wanted to compete in the cook-off because it seemed like a really fun idea, and I also love grilling,” Maldonado said. “The best part for me was that, of the Sweetwater campus, I was the only female student in the competition. I wish we would have more events like this; more friendly competitions.”

Justin Price, department chair of Computer-Aided Drafting & Design, competed for the first time this year. Price was part of the Brown Chicken Brown Cow team, along with the Computer Networking & Systems Administration department chair, and students from both programs.

“I thought it was a good opportunity,” Price said. “It was a fun time to get out and interact with the students and faculty outside of the classroom. It went good for our team; we had fun and I enjoyed it.”

TSTC’s Team Challenge Cook-Off has been held every year in the fall and spring since 2012.


TSTC Expansion Brings New Opportunities in Sweetwater

(SWEETWATER) – As industrial trades continue to grow in the West Texas area, Texas State Technical College is at the forefront, ready to supply graduates to fill new job openings.

Starting this fall, TSTC in Sweetwater will expand two of the college’s flagship programs, welding and diesel equipment, to increase its capacity to produce more work-ready technicians. The welding program, which currently houses 25 welding booths, will be expanding to hold 60 booths, and the diesel equipment program will expand from 30 enrollment slots to 60.

“Diesel and welding jobs are plentiful and projected to grow,” said Provost Eliska Smith. “TSTC chose to invest $1,750,000 to expand these two in-demand programs and equip even more quality welders and diesel mechanics.”

With the expansion, TSTC will be able to serve more Texans – both dual enrollment and full-time students – schedule courses more effectively, add additional course offerings, and grow its residential student body.

Ken Becker, executive director of the Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development said as Sweetwater’s economic base continues to expand into logistics, energy and manufacturing, the need for developing the skill sets in welding, diesel, electrical and hydraulics also grows.

“TSTC continues to meet and exceed the current training needs while growing opportunities for their students and our companies’ future employees,” Becker said. “TSTC has expanded programs to not only meet the needs of today but to prepare students for expanding opportunities at new and existing companies.”

“Another benefit of more welding and diesel students living on the TSTC campus in Sweetwater is more dollars being spent in the Sweetwater economy as well,” added Smith. “TSTC residential students become a part of the community, eating at restaurants, and buying gas and groceries here.”

Taylor Elston, a welding instructor at TSTC in Sweetwater, agrees, and said the expansion also brings new opportunities for instructional growth, increasing the knowledge base of students.

“It’s an opportunity to get into different welding processes that haven’t been offered here yet,” Elston said.

TSTC currently offers a pipe welding certificate in Sweetwater, but the expansion would allow the college to branch out to offer a structural welding certificate as well. A structural welding certification is a valuable credential for welders who work with structural steel, petroleum pipelines, sheet metal and chemical refinery materials. The annual median wage for welders is $41,000, a great return on a $5,000 investment for a one-year certificate.

Keith McDonald, the district service manager for Yellowhouse Machinery South Texas, says the company employs three TSTC diesel graduates, and would benefit from the growth in qualified workers.

“Techs are few and far between,” McDonald said. “Not everyone can grab a wrench and say ‘I’m a technician.’ There are definitely more openings than there are qualified technicians.”

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 21 percent increase in jobs for diesel engine specialists in Texas through 2022, and a whopping 43 percent increase in welding jobs in the same time period.

TSTC currently offers welding at the Breckenridge, Brownwood, Harlingen, Marshall, North Texas, Sweetwater, Waco and Williamson County campuses. Associate degrees and certificates are available, varying by campus. Diesel equipment technology is also offered at TSTC’s campuses in Fort Bend County, Marshall, North Texas, Sweetwater, and Waco.

TSTC will begin enrolling new students for the summer and fall semesters on April 4. For more information on the college, or to apply, visit