(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 www.tstc.edu.