(ABILENE) – Some of the most sizzling careers right now in West Texas are in the industrial maintenance field, and Texas State Technical College is poised to fill the need.
TSTC in Abilene will offer the new Associate of Applied Science degree in Industrial Maintenance – Mechanical Specialization at the Industrial Technology Center opening this fall on Loop 322 next to Abilene Regional Airport. Students will learn about electrical theory, industrial maintenance, blueprint reading, hydraulics, pneumatics and other topics in the heavily hands-on program.
Shea Hopkins, director of talent management at the Abilene Industrial Foundation, recently took a tour of the ITC.
“It was looking good,” she said. “I think it’s exciting to have something like this in Abilene, and I think the students will be excited about it.”
Hopkins said one of the first questions prospective companies ask is if skilled labor can be found to fill available positions.
“What I like about industrial maintenance is it is the most comprehensive,” Hopkins said. “It gives the students a little bit of everything. It is not as specific as some of the other degrees. It makes for well-rounded employees, and the companies can use them for a lot of different jobs so they can use those skills.”
Graduates can use the associate degree to become millwrights, industrial motor control technicians, and electrical and electronics installers and repairers.
Electro-mechanical technicians and industrial maintenance mechanics are considered in-demand occupations in the region, according to Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas.
Steve Collins, business and resource consultant at Workforce Solutions, said there are more than 800 job openings now in the wind farm, oil and gas and manufacturing sectors in Callahan, Jones and Taylor counties for installation, repair and maintenance. The number can shift almost daily as hiring is done and jobs are open.
Collins said TSTC’s Industrial Maintenance program will be helpful to fill employment needs.
“The more education you can get, the better qualified you are,” he said.
Joe Tiner, chief engineer at Texas Healthcare Linen in Abilene, said he needs maintenance technicians who can read blueprints and troubleshoot electrical problems quickly and know how to fix machinery. He said it was great that students will get to study Industrial Maintenance in Abilene.
“Those are the guys that TSTC will produce and give them a baseline of what they need to do once they are in the field,” he said. “That is how I learned.”
The high-tech laundry company works with hospitals in Abilene and throughout West Texas to clean their 14 million pounds of laundry per year.
“We work long shifts, five days a week, and are at only about 50 percent of our capacity,” Tiner said. “We have been growing.”
The new Industrial Maintenance program has also piqued the interest of area companies.
Acme Brick, based in Fort Worth, has a production plant in Lubbock and retail brick, tile and stone stores in Abilene, Amarillo, Lubbock, Midland and San Angelo.
“That would be a nice place to look,” Yulonda Charles, Acme Brick’s human resources manager, said about TSTC in Abilene. “I do partner with TSTC on most of their campuses. We are looking for trainees coming out of TSTC, but they need to be open to moving where we have a plant.”
West Texas Industrial Engines Inc. in San Angelo specializes in engine overhauls, field services, machine shop services and other work for the oil and gas field.
“The problem with filling jobs is San Angelo’s unemployment rate is less than 3 percent, so our opportunities to fill positions in the industrial field are very limited,” said C. Alan McClain, the company’s president and chief executive officer and a TSTC in Sweetwater alumnus.
He said it was exciting that TSTC in Abilene was expanding its technical offerings with the Industrial Maintenance program.
“I think it will be outstanding,” McClain said. “Anything we can do to help get people in the skilled trades and get them an education and place them in skilled trade jobs would be great.”
The Industrial Maintenance program will be offered in Abilene pending approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.