Author Archives: Daniel Perry

TSTC Aircraft Pilot Students in Demand to Fill Jobs

(WACO) – Students in the Aircraft Pilot Training Technology program at Texas State Technical College are seeing an array of job options once they graduate.

“There aren’t enough pilots being trained to meet the need,” said Trey Cade, director of Baylor University’s Institute for Air Science, which partners with TSTC in pilot training. “Airlines need to be flying more routes and need more airplanes.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for airline and commercial pilots are expected to increase by 4 percent through 2026.

“The demand is everywhere, specifically at the regional level. Everyone is fighting each other for the ability to get you, the pilot, to come to one of us,” said Marie Didonna, a cadet manager for Envoy Air Inc. “It’s kind of like the buyer’s market for housing; it’s the pilot’s market for a job.”

Although traditionally a male-dominated field, the aviation industry is seeing an increase in female pilots.

“Our female cadet numbers are going up,” Didonna said. “Those interests are really taking off, and it’s easier to spread the word when you can say, ‘Look, these are female pilots.’”

According to the Federal Aviation Administration’s 2018 Active Civil Airmen Statistics report, there were more than 46,400 female pilots in 2018 compared to around 39,600 in 2013.

“It’s great to see a little girl look up at you and say, ‘That’s amazing; I didn’t know I could be a pilot,’” Didonna said.

TSTC’s Aircraft Pilot Training Technology students take classes and do all flight training at the campus airport. Baylor students do coursework at their home campus and flight training at TSTC.

“I would definitely recommend the program to anyone who is seriously interested in becoming a pilot,” said Noelle Smith, an 18-year-old Aviation Sciences major at Baylor from Fort Worth doing pilot training at TSTC. “They get you in the plane first semester. You’re immersed in it to make sure you like it.”

Aviation students from both institutions are given helpful perks to help jump-start their careers. TSTC offers a Part 141 training program that enables Baylor graduates to receive a 500-hour reduction from the required 1,500 flight training hours. TSTC students who graduate with an associate degree receive a 250-hour reduction.

“The 141 program here at TSTC is very professional,” said Andrew Dolan, a TSTC flight instructor and Baylor aviation alumnus. “You really get the good training you need here to excel and advance further in the industry.”

The annual mean wage for commercial pilots in Texas as of May 2017 was more than $105,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

TSTC has the largest airport in the United States operated by an educational institution and includes a dual runway operational control tower.

“I like how it [the program] is structured,” said Alejandro Ledesma, 21, a TSTC Aircraft Pilot Training Technology major from Dallas. “They don’t just make pilots, they make quality pilots. I’m not trying to be another average pilot.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

TSTC in Waco Hosts Industry Job Fair

(WACO) – More than 860 Texas State Technical College students met potential employers from throughout the nation and Texas on Thursday at its Industry Job Fair.

Students were lining up to register about a half hour before the 9 a.m. start of the event at the Murray Watson Jr. Student Recreation Center. Inside, students were treated to more than 100 companies looking to fill jobs for diesel equipment mechanics, industrial maintenance workers, instrumentation employees, electricians, plumbers and welders.

Galaxy Builders Ltd. in San Antonio has hired six TSTC graduates in recent years, said Ramiro Contreras, the company’s executive vice president.

“I have had really good success,” he said.

Contreras said he was searching for potential assistant project managers.

“There’s a misconception that everyone swings a hammer,” he said.

Boeing attended its first campus Industry Job Fair, with representatives seeking aviation mechanics, industrial maintenance workers and electrical employees.

“We really like how we are getting students that are matched to what we are looking for,” said Chris Rustik, a Boeing equipment maintenance manager. “The students are eager to find out information, so we appreciate that.”

Some TSTC alumni returned to campus to job recruit.

Joseph Jacobs, a support services manager for the Waco Independent School District, graduated in 2000 from TSTC with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Networking and Systems Administration.

He said the school district, one of Waco’s largest employers, looks for more than teachers. Jacobs said computer networking is one of the fields that workers are sought for.

Students asked questions, clutched company brochures and handed out resumes to business representatives.

Cesar Vazquez, 19, of Red Oak is studying in the Diesel Equipment Technology program. He talked to a few companies and felt good about his job prospects.

“I’m here to get a job in the diesel industry because I like working on diesels and I have since I was a little boy,” Vazquez said. “My first truck was a diesel, and I just like working on them.”

Tanner Whitsel, 19, of Giddings is also studying in the Diesel Equipment Technology program.

“I’m here to get a job close to home,” he said. “The Industry Job Fair is important because it has a lot of jobs you may not see that are closer to home than you think.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

Longview Companies Utilize TSTC Training

(MARSHALL) – Three Longview companies are utilizing Texas State Technical College for training employees in new technical skills.

Komatsu Mining Corp., Stemco and Westlake Chemical Corp. have scheduled training on-site and at TSTC’s Marshall campus in recent weeks.

“We are now approaching businesses to assist them in identifying training gaps and coming up with recommendations to close such gaps,” said Dirk D. Hughes, executive director of TSTC Workforce Training. “Then, and only then, will we talk to the company about how to fund the training through grants and/or cash.”

Thirteen employees at Stemco, which produces bearings, hubcaps, seals and other products for the heavy- and medium-duty trailer and truck industry, will take computer software classes at the end of March and a class in measurements and tools in April. The classes are conducted through a Texas Workforce Development grant.

“We looked at the company needs and worked with TSTC to see what courses they had available and would work best with our colleagues,” said Amanda Tarbet, a human resources business partner at Stemco.

About 140 Stemco employees have already completed five courses in leadership, manufacturing and other topics through TSTC in 2018 and 2019, Tarbet said. Tarbet credited Stemco’s plant manager William Leadaman as being instrumental in getting the training for employees.

“I think it is helping our colleagues to open their eyes on furthering their education as well,” Tarbet said. “We have a few colleagues that are actually registered with TSTC. We have a tuition reimbursement program.”

Four employees at Westlake Chemical recently took a three-day course in motor controls.

Eight Komatsu employees are taking two inventory management classes this month at the company.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

TSTC Alumnus Motivated by Career Choice in Austin

(WACO) – Jacob Johnson’s career is in the fast lane.

Johnson, 20, of Austin graduated in August from Texas State Technical College with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Cloud and Data Center Management. He is an associate systems engineer at Austin-based Accruent, a worldwide physical resources management and planning company.

“This is the start of a great career and life for me,” Johnson said. “Besides, I genuinely find my job fun. I leave work and I go home and study AWS (Amazon Web Services), which I also find super enjoyable. I would not be this motivated if I did not enjoy what I was doing.”

Johnson’s job involves using the company’s ticketing system to ensure that software websites and servers are functional.

“I also do a fair amount of troubleshooting of our websites when customers find issues that our support team cannot figure out,” he said.

Johnson said what he learned at TSTC has been beneficial to his job.

“The thing I am most knowledgeable about is cloud providers,” Johnson said. “What my work gives me is the ability to expand my knowledge greatly on the actual server side of technology. I just love learning more about it.”

Rus Teston, an instructor in TSTC’s Cloud and Data Center Management program, said he could see early on how eager Johnson was to learn.

“During the AWS Solutions Architect course, it was apparent to everyone when things aligned for Jacob and his torch of knowledge was lit,” Teston said. “Even after graduation while looking for employment, Jacob continued to pursue knowledge, and AWS certificate after certificate were quickly claimed as his own.”

Workers will be needed to fill an increase in information technology positions predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The agency has estimated more than 24,000 network and computer systems administrators and 10,500 more computer network architects will be needed by 2026.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

TSTC’s Solar Energy Technology Program Radiating With Job Possibilities for Graduates

(WACO) – Julian Rodriguez’s future in the solar industry looks to be as bright as the sun shining on the panels generating energy in Texas.

Rodriguez, 18, of McCamey in Upton County, is in his second semester at Texas State Technical College, studying for an Associate of Applied Science degree in Solar Energy Technology and certificates in Energy Efficiency Specialist and Electrical Construction. The combination is referred to at TSTC as the Triple Crown.

Rodriguez chose to study the alternative energy because of what is going on in and around his hometown. Upton County is home to the Alamo 6 and Pearl solar farms, both built by OCI Solar Power, and Solar 2, which is owned by Vistra Energy. In neighboring Pecos County, California-based 174 Power Global broke ground in January 2018 on the 1,500-acre Midway Solar project. The projects are bringing extra workers to Upton County, which has more than 3,600 residents.

“It’s a lot of unfamiliar faces, which is cool,” Rodriguez said. “It’s interesting to see. It’s opened up a lot of possibilities for me.”

The solar industry includes more than 13,000 employees in the state, according to the Texas Solar Power Association.

“I would hope job seekers would view us as a growing industry making a positive impact in Texas,” said Charlie Hemmeline, executive director of the Texas Solar Power Association in Austin. “I’ve certainly heard that message from job seekers, including from mid-career professionals looking to transition to solar and leverage their existing energy industry expertise.”

Texas is ranked sixth in the country in solar energy consumption, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association’s December 2018 Solar Spotlight – Texas. About 282,000 Texas homes are powered by solar, according to the SEIA.

There are more than 650 solar companies in the state, a majority of them specializing in installation and manufacturing, according to the SEIA.

Ignacio Guajardo, co-owner of Peg Energy in Corpus Christi, Laredo and San Antonio, said the company recruits employees for their skills and then trains them.

“There are electricians and structural engineers and a lot of different people that know of certain areas of solar, but not totally solar,” he said. “It’s definitely a challenge when you are looking for installers or technicians or designers. It’s not all that easy.”

Guajardo said some customers had to know others who have solar to understand how panels are installed and function. He predicted the company could generate growth in the next few years, expanding beyond South Texas.

“People are becoming more aware of the technology,” Guajardo said. “As technology keeps improving, we see more people going solar.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected the number of solar photovoltaic installers will rise to more than 23,100 jobs nationwide by 2026.

Elliott Graham, 20, of Mansfield is a second-semester TSTC Triple Crown student. He said his parents encouraged him to pursue the associate degree and certificates.

“I enjoy just being outside,” Graham said. “I’d rather be outside than at a desk job. It’s something different every day.”

He said he has prepared for classwork by going to a gym to improve his fitness and learning the mathematics behind solar energy. Graham said it is important to calculate precise roof dimensions before determining how many panels will be needed.

“You want to save as much time as possible for the customer,” he said.

TSTC’s Solar Energy Technology program has at least 35 students this semester, with many studying for the associate degree and two certificates. Graduates tend to work in parts of Texas with locally offered solar incentives and rebates.

“It gets them into good-paying jobs quicker,” said Hugh Whitted, a TSTC Solar Energy Technology instructor. “It makes them more marketable.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

TSTC SkillsUSA TeamWorks Group Uses Skills for Volunteer Work

(WACO) – For an area church, it was a gift.

For students at Texas State Technical College, it was a way to give back to the community.

Members of TSTC’s SkillsUSA TeamWorks team volunteered Thursday and Friday to do renovation work at the Word of Faith Ministry in Temple. The students — Belton residents Antonio Hernandez and Andres Zapata, Jacob Dawson of Mansfield and Leonardo Mata of Fort Worth — removed tile, closed in an office wall, opened a portion of another wall and installed French doors.

“This is truly a blessing because I like to see young men at their ages have a drive and something to support,” said Larry Watkins, the church’s pastor.

The work gave the students an opportunity to see how compatible they are away from TSTC, where they practice weekly.

“It’s been pretty good,” said Mata, 19. “Hanging out with them is good. I hope this experience helps us out.”

Dawson, 19, said he worked throughout high school individually in SkillsUSA contests, but since joining the construction team he has learned how to trust his teammates’ skills.

“It’s nice to do something different,” he said.

Watkins first met Zapata when he worked at Home Depot and was attending Belton High School. Zapata’s first project for the church was building a podium stage when he was a junior.

The TeamWorks group will have a simulated building scrimmage on Friday, March 29, at the Ben Barber Innovation Academy in Mansfield.

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

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

TSTC’s Schneider Inducted Into International Chefs Honor Society

(WACO) – Mark Schneider, Texas State Technical College’s Culinary Arts division director, was recently inducted into the Epicurean World Master Chefs Society.

Schneider joins about 350 members of the international honor society. And, he joins Executive Pastry Chef Michele Brown as the only TSTC Culinary Arts instructors to have achieved the honor.

“It’s a privilege to bring this back to TSTC,” Schneider said. “For TSTC to have one (instructor) is amazing, but to have two (instructors) is unheard of. To be in the Epicurean World Master Chefs Society – it’s something you don’t ask about. It’s invitation-only.”

Schneider was honored at the organization’s Annual Sponsors Luncheon in late February at Via Real in Irving, where he created a Texas-themed dessert: Tequila Lime White Chocolate Bavarian Dome with Prickly Pear Gelee and Avocado Ice Cream with Praline Sauce.

“The event was a huge success, with Chef Schneider’s dessert being the star of the lunch,” Brown said.

Schneider invited Len Pawelek, a TSTC Culinary Arts instructor, to cook with him at the luncheon where Pawelek made appetizers.

“We are blessed at TSTC to have chefs that have excelled in their careers,” Pawelek said. “Some of the most respected chefs are recognizing them.”

Schneider said he will be trained and coached by other society members to prepare for competitions like the IKA/Culinary Olympics and the Expogast Villeroy and Boch Culinary World Cup.

“To me, I have learned with different honors that this is just another plateau,” he said. “It puts me back into service and paying it forward.”

Schneider is a 1989 graduate of Midway High School. He received a culinary diploma from the Greater Cincinnati Culinary Academy in 1993 and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Food Service and Culinary Arts from TSTC in 2001. He also earned a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree in Business from Tarleton State University in 2009.

Schneider became a certified executive chef in 2002 and a certified culinary educator in 2008 granted by the American Culinary Foundation.

He was named the Texas Chefs Association’s Chef of the Year in 2008 and was the American Culinary Federation’s Central Region Educator of the Year in 2016.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

New TSTC Scholarship Available for Hutto High School Graduates

(HUTTO) – Members of Hutto High School’s Class of 2019 will be the first to benefit from a new scholarship to attend Texas State Technical College that was created by the city of Hutto, the Hutto Education Foundation and The TSTC Foundation.

The three entities are contributing money to help Hutto graduates pay for pursuing certificates or associate degrees at TSTC.

The city is contributing $25,000, while the Hutto Education Foundation is still determining what it will provide financially. The TSTC Foundation will match both contributions.

“The ultimate goal is to keep building this,” said Michael Smith, associate field development officer for The TSTC Foundation. “We are trying to get a consortium of industry here that will theoretically fund any Hutto student that wants to go to TSTC.”

Hutto Mayor Doug Gaul said the idea of Hutto students graduating from high school, pursuing a technical degree and staying in the city is appealing.

“We are doing the first two semesters, and the Hutto Education Foundation is doing the other two semesters,” Gaul said.

Lizzy Samples, director of the Hutto Education Foundation, said their scholarship contribution will be for Hutto graduates who take at least 24 semester credit hours at TSTC.

“It is our mission that the students receiving this funding also have the drive to want to complete their education,” Samples said.

The three entities are expected to consider in upcoming years how much to contribute for future Hutto graduates to use.

“We feel like this is a really interesting and neat initiative that we hope the high school students get on board with,” Samples said.

Hutto High School students planning to attend TSTC this fall can talk to a TSTC recruitment representative for more information. Current TSTC students who graduated from Hutto High School can contact a TSTC admissions representative for more information.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

Texas State Technical College Honored at State Capitol

(AUSTIN) – Lawmakers in both chambers of the 86th Texas Legislature honored Texas State Technical College today with resolutions declaring Feb. 27, 2019, as “TSTC Day at the Capitol.”

TSTC Chancellor Mike Reeser noted that TSTC is different from all other colleges in Texas.

“TSTC is all tech, all the time,” he said. “At each of our campuses we try to focus on the program mix that the regional employers in that area are seeking most.”

Representing TSTC on each chamber’s dais alongside Reeser were Board of Regents Chairman John K. Hatchel and Electrical Power and Controls instructor Jonathan Bonkoske.

They were joined by TSTC students Iris De La Fuente, an Instrumentation student at the Waco campus, and Victoria Rincones, who is studying Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics in Harlingen.

Adam Hutchison, provost at TSTC in Waco, recognized the importance of the event to educate lawmakers on the value of TSTC to the state.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate who we are as a state agency here at the Texas Capitol, where all the business of the state gets done,” he said.

Cledia Hernandez, provost at TSTC in Harlingen, emphasized the importance of TSTC to the state’s economy.

“Having the opportunity for our students to come and share with our legislators what we are doing and the impact we have in the economic and workforce development in the state of Texas is tremendous,” she said.

The resolutions were sponsored in the House by Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco, and in the Senate by Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury.

Sen. Birdwell described TSTC’s unique funding formula.

“It’s the only college system in the country that is funded solely on outcomes and performance,” he said. “TSTC doesn’t get paid until students get paid.”

Additionally, about 1,000 legislators and staffers were treated to Amy’s Ice Creams as a way to celebrate TSTC Day at the Capitol.


Midway, Live Oak Students Win Top Prizes at Science and Engineering Fair at TSTC

(WACO) – A student from Midway High School and a team from a Waco private school were the top winners in the 63rd annual Central Texas Science and Engineering Fair held Tuesday and Wednesday at Texas State Technical College.

Midway High School junior Sophie Kearney, 17, along with Live Oak Classical School sophomores Caleb Chakmakjian, 16, and Wyatt Tyson, 16, are eligible to represent Central Texas in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May in Phoenix. Remi Labeille, 16, a junior at Midway High School, was named an alternate.

Kearney participated in the regional science fair in seventh, eighth and ninth grades but skipped doing a sophomore project. This year, her project focused on making better prescriptions so antibiotics are more effective. The project combined her love of science and newly discovered interest in computer programming.

“I cried when I got back to my seat,” Kearney said. “I have looked up to Edward Kim (a former science fair winner and Midway High School graduate) and Remi (Labeille). Making first place is a crazy achievement to me.”

Krystle Moos, a chemistry teacher at Midway High School, advised Labeille and Kearney on their projects.

“They put a lot of hard work in their projects,” Moos said. “They are self-driven kids. They are figuring out problems we don’t even know we have and finding solutions for them.”

Chakmakjian was named a top winner for the second year in a row at the regional science fair. He and Labeille, the event’s other top winner in 2018, represented Central Texas at last year’s International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh.

And, Labeille had a small part in Chakmakjian and Tyson’s project.

“We went through three project ideas,” Chakmakjian said. “Remi gave us the idea to study a hybrid rocket engine. It’s an honor to be part of the science community. I’m really glad Wyatt gets to experience this.”

Tyson said he looked forward to more work with Chakmakjian.

“I thought it was a good project,” Tyson said. “There is room for improvement. The other projects here were really good.”

There were more than 100 projects from area public, private and home schools. Some of the topics the middle and high school students studied include alternative energy, acoustics, caterpillars, essential oils, fidget spinners and robotics.

The first-, second- and third-place winners in each junior and senior division are eligible for the Texas Science and Engineering Fair in March in College Station.

A team from Tennyson Middle School won the Junior Science Bowl held Tuesday at TSTC’s IDEAS Center.

For more information on the Central Texas Science and Engineering Fair, go to

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to