Author Archives: Daniel Perry

TSTC Pharmacy Technicians Have Local Job Opportunities

(WACO) – Before Courtney Balzadua, 27, of Waco became a pharmacy technician at the Family Health Center, she balanced working as a waitress and being the mother of a small child.

She knew she needed to make a career change.

“I wanted to be in the medical field in some way,” said Balzadua, a 2015 graduate of Texas State Technical College’s Pharmacy Technician program.

The need for pharmacy technicians is projected to grow nationally to more than 450,000 jobs by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The agency credits the job increase to a rising need for prescription medicines. Pharmacy technicians must learn the general uses of medical drugs but cannot legally counsel patients.

TSTC’s three-semester program includes classes in Drug Classification and Pharmaceutical Mathematics and an on-site clinical at a hospital, pharmacy or other medical facility like the Family Health Center.

TSTC caps each semester’s Pharmacy Technician cohort at 25 students, said Colby Walters, a program instructor. She said students who enter the program need strong mathematics and memorization skills.

Program graduates can work under pharmacy training licenses for two years, Walters said. During this time, the graduates get three chances to take the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board’s licensing test to continue working in the field. The graduates also undergo a background check by the Texas State Board of Pharmacy.

A public perception survey conducted by the PTCB in 2016 indicated that 85 percent of people said it was very important for people preparing prescriptions to be certified, and 74 percent of people believed pharmacies should only hire certified pharmacy technicians.

Traci Crain is a staff pharmacist at the Family Health Center’s pharmacy on Providence Drive in Waco. She said she can tell within a month which pharmacy interns can adapt to the job. Some of the qualities she looks for include being able to work with others, handle criticism from customers and exhibit a solid work ethic.

The Family Health Center typically hires two interns each semester. Crain said interns start out sacking prescriptions for customers. She said interacting with the staff enables the students to understand the pharmacy language. Eventually interns can advance to working on registers and helping customers.

“It’s not uncommon to get hired before they graduate,” Walters said.

Jennifer Herrera, 34, of Waco graduated in 2005 from TSTC’s Pharmacy Technician program and has been working at the Family Health Center since she was an intern.

“This is in a low-income area,” she said. “I don’t see myself as different from any of our patients. I fell in love with the environment.”

Herrera often works with clients in both Spanish and English.

“You do have to be careful because certain words can mean different things,” she said.

The Family Health Center has 16 locations in Bell and McLennan counties. There are about 20 employees who work at the pharmacy from Monday to Friday. Overall, the Waco location fills an average of 700 prescriptions per day.

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McGregor Students Find Their Passion for Learning at TSTC

(WACO) – Christina Pace is elevating her creativity through digital art.

Pace, 23, of McGregor designs fliers for Texas State Technical College in Waco’s Visual Art Society, which includes other TSTC Visual Communication Technology majors. It is practice for her future career in graphic design.

As she pursues her endeavors and studies, Pace finds motivation from others.

“It’s being able to be creative and work on my assignments and be surrounded by those who do the same,” she said.

Pace graduated in 2014 from McGregor High School and went on to earn an associate degree in art in 2016 from Temple College. At the time, she said she knew she needed to earn another degree.

Pace began classes in fall 2017 at TSTC. She said her art classes have helped her be a better artist as she uses concepts for space and composition and learns about Adobe’s creative platforms.

Pace is among more than 25 students from McGregor currently taking classes at TSTC in Waco.

Meanwhile, many students attending McGregor High School are partaking in career and technical education offerings that can lead to fruitful careers. The Texas Education Agency’s Texas Academic Performance Report for 2017-18 indicated that the McGregor Independent School District had more than 370 students in the program.

“We have made a big push in the last few years to expand our career and technical education programs,” said Seth Fortenberry, principal of McGregor High School. “We have a very strong construction and welding program at the high school where students have the opportunity to earn certifications prior to graduation.”

Fortenberry said the robotics program combines design, electronics and engineering for students to ultimately launch their own two rockets at the end of the school year.

“One rocket is built to carry a 1-pound payload one mile high, and the other is built to break the sound barrier,” he said.

Fortenberry said more courses could be added in the future for students to study drones and automotives.

“Two-year colleges are definitely an option for students,” he said. “We push them very hard to continue on into postsecondary education no matter the length, and many do end up choosing TSTC.”

Adrian Siller, 28, of Waco did not attend high school in McGregor but calls it home. He has traded in the study of sciences for suspensions.

Siller is working toward an Automotive Technology – Toyota Technician Training and Education Network, or T-TEN, specialization certificate at TSTC and is scheduled to graduate in summer 2020.

“I have always liked automobiles,” he said. “I did research on manufacturers and learned about Toyota.”

Siller shifted into studying the automotive field after earning a bachelor’s degree in anthropology in 2014 from Texas A&M University. He said understanding the lectures and research processes during his first time in college has helped him at TSTC.

Siller has enjoyed the hands-on work on vehicles in the Transportation Technology Center’s T-TEN lab. His favorite lessons so far have dealt with testing and diagnosing electrical system problems.

Siller said his goal is to graduate from TSTC and then pursue a physics or mathematics degree. He wants to apply the technical and academic combination either to work in the automotive industry or to teach.

“This career will definitely take me to opportunities in a big city,” Siller said. “Right now I am eyeballing Austin.”

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TSTC, Cameron ISD Team Up for Dual Enrollment Classes

(HUTTO) – Students at C.H. Yoe High School in Cameron recently ended their first semester taking dual enrollment classes through Texas State Technical College.

Twelve students completed the Principles of Accounting I class as part of the Business Management Technology certificate. And, more than 30 students took the online Medical Terminology class under the Medical Office Specialist certificate. This is the first year that technical dual enrollment classes have been offered at the high school.

“We had always offered dual credit, but it was academic and not career and technical education dual credit,” said Kenneth Driska Jr., Cameron Independent School District’s career and technical education director.

Driska said a high school teacher was credentialed by TSTC in West Texas to teach the accounting classes.

The school district built on its existing medical career tracks to branch into offering medical office specialist classes.

“Health science has been something that kids in our district seem to show a lot of interest in,” Driska said. “Part of it is our proximity to Scott & White in Temple. It’s about a 30-minute drive. There is an opportunity there for jobs.”

Megan Redmond, a dual enrollment advisor at TSTC in Williamson County, worked with Cameron ISD to make the classes available.

“The counselors I work with are incredible,” Redmond said. “They are super responsive, and they get everything to me on time. Their students are very receptive. They get their forms turned in on time, and a lot of them are making A’s and B’s this semester.”

Students passing the courses are able to earn college credit hours and meet Texas high school diploma requirements. High school students taking certificate courses have the opportunity to earn up to 12 credit hours.

Driska said some of the school district’s college-going culture is driven by local scholarship opportunities from the Callaway Foundation and the Cameron ISD Foundation.

“We have high expectations for our kids in Cameron,” Driska said.

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TSTC Provides Qualified Wedlers for Local Jobs

(BROWNWOOD) — The need for skilled welders is growing, and local businesses hope to remind welders of job opportunities close to home.

The Texas State Technical College welding program in Brownwood produces qualified welders ready for industry, and local companies hope to attract those interested in staying in the area.

“I worked in the oil field, and it’s good work, but it can be hard on families,” said Stephen Hope, a TSTC in Brownwood welding instructor. “So these local fabrication shops are great for those who want stability, and there’s a chance to make a career and move up.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for welders, cutters, solderers and brazers nationwide are expected to grow to more than 427,000 through 2026. A majority of those jobs are expected to be in manufacturing.

One local business, Barr Fabrication, says it is interested in hiring area workers and supporting local businesses.

“It benefits the Brownwood community as a whole when we hire locally, and we’re very proud to be part of this community,” said Francie Clark, the public and employee relations representative for Barr Fabrication.  

For another company, Solaris Oilfield Infrastructure, creating a positive work-life balance for its employees is something it takes pride in.

“If we can hire welders of Brown County, it means they can make competitive pay without sacrificing time away from family,” said Amber Ray, a human resources representative with the company.

TSTC partners with industry leaders to ensure that graduates find the right company to match their professional and personal goals.

“We’ve got a great program here that lets us work with students one-on-one and provide specific instruction,” Hope said. “That, and our conversations with people in the industry locally and elsewhere, really helps us to make sure these students get where they want to be.”

TSTC in Brownwood offers a three-semester structural welding certificate that includes classes in blueprint reading, fabrication, layout and technical calculations.

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TSTC Graduate Honors Instructor

(ABILENE) — Friendships can be one of the greatest things about a student’s time at college.  

Recent Texas State Technical College Emergency Medical Services graduate Ricki Coleman found a great friend in his EMS instructor, Ronnie Pitts. So Coleman took time to honor him at TSTC’s Fall 2018 commencement ceremony.

“Ronnie is the reason I’m graduating,” Coleman said. “He really listened to me and became a friend and a mentor, and I wouldn’t be here without him.”

Coleman is a member of the academic honor society Phi Theta Kappa, and as a thank-you he gifted Pitts with an honorary Phi Theta Kappa stole.

“I had no clue he was going to give me this, and I am so honored,” Pitts said. “We’re both about the same age and have gone through a lot of the same things, so I’m just glad I could offer some advice.”

Coleman served in the U.S Army from 1990 to 2004. After he left, he worked in several fire service and emergency medical service jobs.

“I’ve always had a calling to this field and just want to help people,” Coleman said.  

Despite years of experience in the industry, Coleman wanted to be an example for his children and get a degree.

“It’s showing that you can be committed and consistent in the business world, and I can’t tell my kids to do something if I can’t be the example,” Coleman said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, emergency medical technician and paramedic jobs are expected to grow by 15 percent over the next 10 years.

With the expected growth in jobs, TSTC in Abilene moved the EMS program to the new Industrial Technology Center that opened at the beginning of the fall semester.  

“The new building is beautiful, and I think it helps to teach these skills in a real-life setting,” Coleman said.

Wanting to follow in his mentor’s footsteps, Coleman hopes to become an instructor in TSTC’s EMS program.

“Ricki has always been an ideal student: respectful, professional and open to feedback,” Pitts said. “And I think anywhere would be very lucky to have him in their employment.”

Before the commencement ceremony, Coleman and Pitts shared a laugh and a hug as they celebrated his achievement.

“This was a bucket-list accomplishment, and there have been so many people — my kids, my wife and of course him (Pitts) — that helped to get me here,” Coleman said.

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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.  

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National Auto Collision Repair Company Looks to TSTC for Employees

(WACO) – Blake Cole grew up reading automotive magazines and at 10 could eagerly recite facts about cars to anyone who would listen.

As he grew up and began working, Cole also developed interests in accounting, fashion merchandising and restaurants.

The 2003 Midway High School alumnus said his life became focused when he enrolled at Texas State Technical College and began taking classes in the Auto Collision and Management Technology program. He received an associate degree in 2008.

“Once I went to TSTC, everything stuck,” he said.

After graduation, he worked at L3 ISR Systems in Waco painting airplanes and later moved to Missouri to work in the auto collision field.

“Just knowing I had learned something and could use it was helpful and a good feeling,” said Cole, now 34.

Cole’s being hired at Service King brought him back to Texas. He is currently the general manager at the Leander location.

“Coffee keeps me motivated,” Cole said. “But it’s always different. I’m never going to come into the same thing every day.”

Cole said he has seen an employment gap develop between workers in their 20s and those in their 40s and older who have been in the auto collision industry for several years. As these workers age and retire, new employees are needed to fill positions.

Clint Campbell, TSTC’s statewide department chair for Auto Collision and Management Technology, said there are goals for increasing the number of students studying in the program.

“We need to be getting our faces in front of these high school students, probably sophomores and up,” Campbell said.

The number of automotive body and glass repairers is expected to grow to about 195,000 jobs nationally by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Cole said the auto collision industry also needs people with electrical, welding and computer programming and networking experience.

New hires at Service King are placed with experienced technicians in the company’s yearlong apprenticeship program at select locations. Cole said company recruiters can build relationships with technical colleges to find potential employees.

James McGee, 35, of Austin was hired by Service King in February and placed in its apprenticeship program. He received an associate degree from TSTC’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program in 2010.

“Get in as early as possible if that’s what you want to do,” McGee said about making a career choice. “Shadow as many people as you want.”

McGee already had some industry knowledge, having worked at small body shops,but said he was glad to learn about pulling techniques and heavy collision work through Service King’s new hire initiative.

“Our job is mainly to problem-solve,” McGee said. “I like the people, and I like to fix things. I like the sense of accomplishment when it’s done. The field will drive you crazy at times and make you head-over-heels excited at other times.”

Cole said employees complete work certifications through the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair, or I-CAR, which provides training in all branches of the auto collision and management industry.

Vincent James, 25, of Leander is a Service King technician who works primarily on tearing vehicles down early in the repair process. He is a 2015 graduate of TSTC’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program.

“I like cars, and I like art. So I thought about auto collision as the melding of the two,” James said. “I was extremely hooked on it. There is something about body work that drew me into it.”

James said he likes the hands-on work and making customers’ vehicles look good.

Robert Castaneda, 29, of Jarrell graduated with an associate degree in 2012 from TSTC’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program.

He said wrecks caused by bad weather tend to mean that he and his co-workers stay busy. He said the rise in aluminum exteriors will mean more training and adaptation for workers in the future.

“I’m doing it until my body won’t let me do it anymore,” Castaneda said about his work. “Always listen and pay attention. There is more than one way to do things.”

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TSTC in North Texas Holds Fall Commencement

(RED OAK) – More than 40 graduates received certificates and associate degrees at Texas State Technical College’s Fall 2018 Commencement held Monday, Dec. 17, at the Waxahachie Civic Center.

When David Sotelo, 41, of Waxahachie enrolled in 2014, he was the first student to do so at TSTC in North Texas. Now, he can call himself a college graduate.

Sotelo earned the Associate of Applied Science degree in Industrial Maintenance – Electrical Specialization. He took classes around his work schedule and also took a semester off before taking a mathematics class this fall to finish the degree.

“I’m very happy and excited,” he said. “I didn’t think this day would come.”

He said the degree will help him in his maintenance job at Owens Corning in Waxahachie.

“It changed my life drastically going to this college,” Sotelo said.

Several other graduates already have jobs.

Peyton Allen, 20, of Palmer received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Diesel Equipment Technology. He chose to pursue the degree field because he grew up working on trucks and farming equipment.

He will begin work in the upcoming days in the diesel shop at Dart Container Corp. in Waxahachie.

“I am ready to make money,” Allen said.

Ethan Owen, 22, of Red Oak received a certificate in Industrial Maintenance – Electrical Specialization. He chose the major because he grew up working on a farm.

Owen did an internship this fall at LafargeHolcim in Midlothian and was recently hired to work full time doing mechanical maintenance.

“I’m ready to start my life,” said Owen.

TSTC has more than 900 students graduating this fall across the state.

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Del Rio Students Find Their Place at TSTC

(WACO) – The tradition of Del Rio High School graduates traveling more than five hours north to attend Texas State Technical College in Waco continues to grow.

“We’re especially proud that the Del Rio community values the work that we do and entrusts their students to us,” said TSTC Provost Adam Hutchison. “It’s a relationship that we intend to keep strong for many years to come.”

Brenden Paradis, 19, is one of at least 15 Del Rio students who were enrolled during the fall semester in TSTC in Waco’s Welding Technology program. He just finished his third semester in the program.

“The reason so many come here is because our (Del Rio High School) welding instructor, Tod Townsend, pushes us beyond high school and to get a college education,” Paradis said.

Knowing that many of Del Rio’s welding students have enrolled at TSTC since the late 1990s, as estimated by TSTC faculty members, made going to college easier for Paradis.

“All of the guys, at first, room together, but after the first year a lot tend to go out on their own,” he said.

Paradis became interested in welding after attending a job fair during his freshman year of high school. He was impressed with sculptures on display that were made by welders.

“I would tell (other) students to really think about their future before their senior year comes up,” Paradis said. “If you haven’t decided on something, it makes it difficult to pick a path to go down.”

After graduating in 2019 from TSTC, Paradis plans to take a summer advanced pipe course on campus and then work in custom fabrication.

Roger Gonzalez, director of career and technical education for the San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District, said district staff looks at job opportunities in the area and reviews Texas Workforce Commission data to adapt classes for students. Some of the school district’s most popular career and technical education (CTE) courses are in aircraft technology, health sciences, law enforcement and welding.

“We want our students to graduate with more than a high school diploma and be future-ready,” Gonzalez said. “The school district continues to invest and expand the CTE program with the use of technology and industry equipment to better prepare our future graduates with expansion of industry certifications and dual-credit opportunities.”

Gonzalez said the students in Del Rio’s welding program build strong relationships with one another, making the transition to college a little easier.

“It seems TSTC is the destination for most of our welding students due to its excellent reputation within the welding community,” he said. “Our welding students never leave us, at least not entirely. Every chance they get, they come to our welding class and share their positive college experience with our current high school students. I believe the reputation and the bridge established between TSTC and our welding program is evidence of our current and future success.”

One Del Rio resident has started what he hopes is a new tradition for Val Verde County students attending TSTC.

Andres Hernandez, 19, of Del Rio finished his first semester in the Automotive Technology – Toyota Technician Training and Education Network, or T-TEN, specialization program. He is among the first generation in his family to go to college.

Hernandez said he has enjoyed the different teaching styles he encounters at TSTC and knowing more about automotive electrical systems.

Hernandez became interested in automobiles when he was a child because of his father, a mechanic. He learned about TSTC when a recruiter visited his high school when he was a sophomore.

“I knew most of the welding students go here (to TSTC),” Hernandez said. “It helped me because I would know some people here.”

Hernandez said he misses his family occasionally but enjoys living on campus. When he is home for visits, he gets work experience as a lube technician at Toyota of Del Rio. He said he also works on tire rotations and other routine maintenance.

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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.

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