TSTC Workforce Training Department to Offer CDL Training

(MARSHALL, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s Workforce Training department will offer a commercial driver’s license course later this summer.

The course will begin on Monday, Aug. 3. The permit part of the course will be taught through WebEx. The skills portion of the course will be taught at TSTC’s Marshall campus. The course lasts five weeks, Monday to Friday. It will enable students to earn a commercial driver’s license permit, with testing being done at the Texas Department of Public Safety in Kilgore.

“Safety is a huge concern at TSTC,” said Dirk Hughes, TSTC’s executive director of Workforce Training in Marshall. “With the state having to deal with the virus, TSTC is taking measures to ensure the safety of its students and instructors. Masks will be worn by students and staff, and the trucks will be sanitized upon the switching of drivers. Safety and health is important to us.”

Tuition for the course is $1,950 for the first six people to sign up and increases to $3,900 for additional  participants.

Some of the occupations that Workforce Solutions of East Texas has listed as needing commercial driver’s licenses include industrial truck and track operators, excavating and loading machine operators, and heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers.

For more information on the commercial driver’s license classes, contact TSTC’s Workforce Training department at 903-923-3374.

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

Area Residents to Benefit From TSTC Scholarships

(RED OAK, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s North Texas campus is using the generosity of two donors to help Midlothian-area residents further their education.

The Midlothian Economic Development Corp. recently made the final contribution in a three-year giving cycle to fund the Midlothian Workforce/Careers Scholarship.

The $30,000 scholarship fund will be divided into $1,000 TSTC scholarships for area residents who live within the boundaries of the Midlothian Independent School District and are high school graduates or have General Educational Development certificates.

TSTC Provost Marcus Balch credited Larry Barnett, a former MEDC executive director and current member of The TSTC Foundation’s board of directors, for helping to bring the campus and Midlothian together.

“He really took an interest in us and connected us to a number of industry partners, city officials, and school officials,” Balch said. “It has just been an all-around good partnership from a connection standpoint.”

Another recent scholarship contribution came from Colten Crist, advertising and operations director of the Midlothian Mirror and Waxahachie Daily Light. He contributed $1,500 for scholarships for students who graduated this year from any of Ellis County’s 15 high schools to attend TSTC’s North Texas campus. Three students will receive $500 each, Crist said.

The inspiration for making the financial gift came from the for-profit Best of All-Ellis County Preps sports banquet held virtually this year. The second annual event honored high school athletes at the county’s high schools.

Crist said he felt last year’s event was missing a contribution to the community, so he reached out to Balch and talked about TSTC’s importance to the county.

“I really like TSTC and what they do, honestly,” Crist said. “I think it is something that is extremely needed in our educational system.”

TSTC’s enrollment coaches will tag students in TSTC’s registration system as potential scholarship recipients. The scholarships will be awarded once students register for classes.

For more information on how to make a gift to TSTC, go to tstc.edu/tstcfoundation/giving/.

TSTC Nursing instructor wants graduates to be equipped, passionate

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Texas State Technical College Nursing instructor Lisa Van Cleave has one goal for graduates of the program in Sweetwater.

“We want to turn out safe RNs who are highly equipped and passionate,” she said.

TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing at its Sweetwater and Harlingen campuses, and Van Cleave said 34 students are enrolled at the Sweetwater campus this summer. She expects to have 35 enrolled this fall.

“Our program in Sweetwater is different because the students are coming in as LVNs,” Van Cleave said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Van Cleave said she hopes more licensed vocational nurses consider becoming registered nurses.

“Once you become an RN, that opens the gate wider for you professionally,” she said.

Van Cleave and her fellow instructors are committed to student success.

“We highly emphasize passing the National Council Licensure Examination. We want to prepare our students to pass the exam the first time they take it,” she said.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas had 251,253 registered nurses as of September 2019, the latest statistical information available. Texas leads the nation in the number of registered nurses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to more interest in nursing, which has always been a profession that changes with the times.

“Everything seems to be changing on a daily basis during this pandemic,” Van Cleave said. “It has helped us in the fact that we are able to get a better look at our curriculum.”

TSTC also offers a certificate in Vocational Nursing at the Breckenridge, Harlingen and Sweetwater campuses. 

For more information on the Nursing program, visit https://tstc.edu/programs/nursing.

TSTC Automotive Technology instructor brings military experience to program

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Gerod Strother has worked on all types of vehicles.

Strother, a 21-year veteran of the U.S. military, brings that experience to Texas State Technical College as an Automotive Technology instructor. After retiring from the military, he began working at the Sweetwater campus in January.

His experience in the military included service with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army.

“I experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in the military,” Strother said.

He said the moment he remembers the most was during Operation Enduring Freedom, America’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“I was part of the first military action in Afghanistan. I loaded the bombs on the first aircraft that were going to bomb Afghanistan,” Strother said. “For a guy from small-town Andrews, Texas, I knew then I was, for the first time in my life, part of the big time.”

Strother’s first job in the Air Force was as an aircraft electrician on B-1 bombers. He also performed vehicle maintenance at several bases and served as an Air Force recruiter in Abilene.

He said one of the more unique jobs was working on a Tunner 60K Cargo Aircraft Loader, which is used to load pallets on large aircraft.

“It is the size of two or three cars,” he said. “It took a special school to learn how to operate it.”

After his time in the Air Force, Strother switched his focus and attended officer candidate school at Fort Benning, Georgia. His Army career led him to several locations, including Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Lewis, Washington; and Fort Polk, Louisiana.

While in the Army, Strother was deployed to Afghanistan for a second time but returned home for additional officer training. While in the military, he worked on earning a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree “without having to pay any money.”

“(During) my time in the military, I met some really good people,” Strother said.

His service has already helped him in his short career as an educator.

“I knew that I would have to deal with different types of people. I did that for 21 years,” Strother said. “I also learned from different people that there is more than one management style to use.”

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

TSTC Embraces Online Learning Opportunities

(WACO, Texas) – Now is an exciting time for the development of online classes.

“I think this will open the doors to a whole new market of people who want to be part of Texas State Technical College,” said Hector Yanez, TSTC’s senior vice president of Student Learning.

TSTC shifted classes online in late March due to the COVID-19 situation, then in early May went to a hybrid format in several programs so students could complete hands-on labs. The hybrid format is being used this summer and will be used this fall.

“What we are doing is making sure the quality of our online courses has stepped up even further,” said Gina Cano-Monreal, TSTC’s associate vice president of Online Learning. “We are working with subject and content experts in each area to ensure there is the same level of quality in their online programs as we have in our face-to-face courses.”

The  Harlingen campus was the first of TSTC’s 10 campuses to have an online learning office. Since the merger of TSTC’s campuses in 2015, online learning has expanded statewide.

“With the help of the online learning office, our courses have been brought forward in a whole new light, showing the spectrum of information that we teach by giving the students numerous ways to absorb it,” said Nelson Adams, lead instructor in TSTC’s Culinary Arts program at the Williamson County campus.

Instructors are scheduling virtual office hours to further engage with students. And, instructors are working statewide to provide a library of digital content for students to utilize.

“The ability to present course material and resources in multiple formats online allows students to learn from anywhere using a variety of devices,” Cano-Monreal said. “Courses are also more tailored to the personal needs of the student.”

Shannon Ferguson, statewide chair of TSTC’s Computer Programming Technology and Web Design and Development Technology programs, said online classes on Moodle are a way to reach all TSTC students across the state. 

“It opens the door to remove the restrictions of set class times of our programs,” he said. “It is no longer Monday to Friday, 8 to 5, during class time. I am asking instructors to stay in contact with students and let them know we are here. Since we do not have face-to-face labs (for certain classes)  it does not mean they cannot reach out to us. It does not mean we will not have virtual meetings online where we see their screens.”

Some students may have a difficult time adjusting to online classes. Cano-Monreal recommended students take TSTC’s student online learning orientation to familiarize themselves on how to be academically successful online.

“If you are not understanding something, reach out to a faculty member and fellow students,” Cano-Monreal said. “The faculty that we have teaching the online courses are the same faculty that teach our face-to-face courses.”

Cano-Monreal also recommended students practice good time management but embrace flexibility.

“What a lot of our instructors are telling our students is to pretend you are coming to class and schedule that time to go to your online class,” she said.

Yanez said students taking online classes will make them digitally better.

“The students are getting tremendous experience in Zoom and Webex meetings and doing testing online,” he said. “You see dropboxes for homework and classmates doing videos. Pretty much the online students are going to have a tremendous awakening of the digital skills they are exposed to.”

Cano-Monreal said faculty and staff members realize some students can have limited technology access once they are off campus. She said students in this situation can talk to their instructor, who can pass the information on to advisement and retention services staff to determine how best to assist.

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

TSTC Career Services helps students find employment

(WACO, Texas) – Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring, employees have been furloughed or laid off, leading Texas to its highest unemployment rate in years.

When government officials began reopening the state in May, employers started to hire people, including graduates of Texas State Technical College.

Kacey Darnell, TSTC’s executive director of Career Services, said employers continue to contact her office for prospective employees.

“When this first started, we did see a decline in job postings,” she said. “But the number of postings has climbed considerably since May. A lot of companies have reached out to us looking for people.”

Darnell said certain areas have not stopped looking for employees.

“During this pandemic there have always been huge needs in industrial maintenance, diesel maintenance and electrical power,” she said.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, construction jobs increased 1.8 percent in May compared to April. Manufacturing jobs statewide increased 0.6 percent over the same time period.

May’s statewide unemployment rate of 13 percent was the first time since March that it recorded a decrease, the commission reported. Texas remains below the national rate, which was 13.3 percent in May.

Darnell said Career Services is still working with companies on employer spotlights and interviews. But one thing has changed.

“There seems to be more interaction since everything is now virtual,” she said.

A recent employer spotlight was held virtually and could be accessed by students at each TSTC campus.

“It was more convenient for the employer. They could have one event and hear from 10 campuses at one time,” Darnell said.

With companies looking to hire, Darnell said students should be prepared, especially since most interviews will be conducted remotely.

“A lot of the interviews will be done over the phone. This is a good time for students to work on their interview skills,” she said.

Darnell said TSTC students can reach out to a Career Services representative for help.

“There are still plenty of job opportunities out there,” she said.

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

TSTC graduate completes EMS program in hometown

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – Texas State Technical College graduate John Hendrix was happy to see the Emergency Medical Services program come to Brownwood.

In 2016, Hendrix had the chance to build on his advanced certification when the EMS program began at the Brownwood campus.

“The closest place a paramedic program was available was more than one hour away. I had a family and work to think about,” he said. “I always told myself that if the program was offered locally, I would take it. I was happy when TSTC began offering it in Brownwood.”

Hendrix graduated this spring with an Associate of Applied Science paramedic degree. 

He is no stranger to first responders and the medical field. His father recently retired after 37 years with the Arlington Fire Department, and his mother is a nurse at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth.

“When I was a senior in high school, I started taking EMS basic courses at night. It was something I really liked,” he said. “After high school, I went to the fire academy and really liked that. I thought I could make this a career.”

He started his firefighting career at the Lake Worth Fire Department while in college. In 2012, he and his wife moved to Brownwood, where he began working for the Brownwood Fire Department. He is also a member of the Early Fire Department.

Hendrix said his department supervisors gave him time off for classes. It also helped that some of the instructors worked at the Brownwood Fire Department.

“They were always good about giving me the time to complete my coursework,” he said.

Hendrix said the EMS program takes a commitment from the students, but rewards are seen at the end.

“You know you are going to pass and make it through,” he said. “The instructors make sure you are prepared to pass the National Register. That is one of the best things about the program. The instructors want you to succeed.”

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

TSTC Aviation Maintenance Graduates Ready to Fill Job Openings

(WACO, Texas) – Aviation maintenance technicians are needed now more than ever.

Robert Capps, statewide chair of Texas State Technical College’s Aviation Maintenance department, said aviation maintenance and repair businesses working with contracts are doing well, along with aviation manufacturers.

“Our graduates have not had a hard time finding jobs,” Capps said. “Right now, the industry is just sort of in a holding pattern. The airlines are in tough shape because no one is flying commercial aviation. The airlines are only one part of the industry.”

Capps said aviation maintenance students also earning an avionics degree can mean more visibility in the hiring process and the possibility of higher pay. He said aviation maintenance students should be willing to relocate for jobs.

Southern Star Aviation in Midlothian has separate avionics and maintenance divisions.  

Jacob Garcia, Southern Star Aviation’s shop foreman, said it is not easy to find people with experience that fit with the general aviation work the business specializes in.

“I guess it is hard because we are not in the metro area and have the pick of everyone that lives there,” he said.

Garcia said the business provides in-house training on how the maintenance and avionics sides operate.

“Aviation is a niche thing,” he said. “I have seen a lot of people come and go out of this industry. It is a passion kind of thing. You want to be here.”

Texas had more than 16,400 aircraft mechanics and service technicians making an annual mean wage of more than $66,000 as of May 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The largest concentrations of workers in Texas are in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas. 

The nationwide need for workers is projected to grow to more than 141,000 through 2028, according to the agency.

“Old perceptions of skilled trades involving dirty, hot work must change,” said Jarid King, president of King Aerospace in Addison. “A&P certified mechanics typically work in squeaky clean hangars with the latest in diagnostic technology. It’s hands-on, highly rewarding work. Security concerns have lessened the number of open houses the industry used to hold as a way to expose young people to aviation as a career. The industry needs to champion those again.”

Aviation businesses of all sizes throughout Texas are searching for workers.

Aero Accessories Inc. in San Antonio is looking for a shop mechanic for aircraft engine accessories.

“We are just a small shop, so we have fewer than 10 employees,” said Debra Broyles, general manager. “We can’t pay the scale competing with Lockheed and Boeing.”

Broyles said in the past the business has employed workers with automotive experience to work on its specialty of overhauling and repairing engine accessories for airplanes dating back to World War II. Broyles said the business trains new workers, who need to have electrical and mechanical proficiency.

Capps said the aviation maintenance program at TSTC’s Waco campus is full for the fall semester, but there are still spaces available at the Abilene and Harlingen campuses.

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

TSTC online learning an option in times of social distancing

The current global pandemic has kept many students outside of the classroom and in their homes to continue their education. In response to this, Texas State Technical College has adjusted several programs to make them completely online while still maintaining the same standards that TSTC is known for.

Associate Vice President of Distance Learning Gina Cano-Monreal discussed the remote learning options available for students at TSTC.

What are the benefits of distance learning?

 There are numerous benefits to TSTC online learning programs and courses. TSTC online programs and courses are of equal value to the accredited quality curriculum offered in face-to-face programs.

The online courses are designed and taught by faculty who are subject-matter experts in their fields and who have relevant, real-world experience. TSTC online faculty are always an email or phone call away. They are committed to supporting students along their educational journey.

Convenience is another benefit. Online courses still have deadlines, but most coursework can be completed when it is most convenient for students and their schedules.

What kind of support do these students receive?

TSTC online students are entitled to the same support services as TSTC’s on-campus students. Online students are provided these services via a variety of methods.

Is distance learning at TSTC going to continue to grow?

 TSTC will continue to grow its online offerings. Prior to the current pandemic, TSTC offered four of its programs entirely online. As a response to current circumstances, TSTC is offering 19 of its programs entirely online in addition to an increased number of online courses. Looking past the fall semester, TSTC will be working with programs and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the college’s accrediting agency, to ensure that the increased number of programs selected for online development and delivery meet our TSTC online quality and accreditation standards.

To learn more about distance learning at TSTC, visit https://tstc.edu/tstconline/faqs.

 

TSTC Board of Regents honor graduate finds success in distance learning

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – In recent months the world has gone digital. Learning from home has become the new normal, and that new normal means that even though students may be many miles from a Texas State Technical College campus, they can still receive quality technical instruction.

El Paso resident and New Jersey native Emily Mancini recently became a TSTC Board of Regents honor graduate on her quest to obtain an Associate of Applied Science degree in Biomedical Equipment Technology. While her initial goal was to graduate with a 4.0 GPA, the feat was not a simple one.

“Working full time while maintaining a household wasn’t easy,” she said. “Thankfully I was able to take nine credit hours a semester. I wasn’t too overworked, and I could still focus on performing well with all my assignments.”

Mancini’s journey into biomedical equipment technology started in 2014, when she began her education in the U.S. Army. She began working in the field in El Paso the following year.

“I came across TSTC while in search of transferring those credits I had already earned to a state school to complete my associate degree,” she explained. “It took me a few years to get the drive to go back to school, but once I did, I wish I had gone sooner.”

Currently, her occupation as a biomedical equipment technician is keeping her busy.

“I maintain, repair, and calibrate medical equipment technology throughout my hospital, urgent care facilities, and over 30 outlying clinics.”

Despite living in El Paso, her daily commute across state lines into Las Cruces, New Mexico, gives her an opportunity to clear her mind every morning and evening.

“It’s about a 45-minute drive,” she said. “It’s mostly all highway. It’s nice not having to deal with much traffic, and I get to enjoy some alone time.”

Mancini offered words of encouragement for future TSTC students who might follow in her footsteps of graduating with honors.

“Speaking as someone who is not coming right out of high school, it takes definite motivation to want to go back to school,” she said. “It takes even more motivation to graduate with honors, but it is worth it. Be proud of your accomplishments and determination. Don’t settle for ‘well, this is good enough, I just need to pass.’ Do the best you can, and make time to achieve your goals.”

Fall registration is currently underway. To learn more, visit tstc.edu.