Category Archives: Waco

TSTC Graduate Discovers New Career Path

(WACO, Texas) – Colton Machart said growing up in Shiner instilled the work ethic he has today.

“I was always outside,” he said. “I would haul hay in the summer, build fences and things like that.”

Machart received this month an Associate of Applied Science degree in Electrical Lineworker Technology at Texas State Technical College’s Waco campus. 

“It has been a long time coming, but I am happy that it is over,” he said. “It is a bittersweet moment. I made a lot of good friends at TSTC.”

Bobby Mitchell, lead instructor in TSTC’s Electrical Lineworker Technology program, admired Machart’s drive to play sports and become an Eagle Scout.

“He has chosen this field to make his career, and when someone with his previous accomplishments decides to do something, they usually get it done,” Mitchell said. “There is no doubt in my mind that he will be successful.”

Machart started this month as a power crew intern at Oncor in Round Rock. After a four-month probationary period, he hopes to become an apprentice, a step forward in becoming a journeyman lineman.

“I am excited, but everything is moving so fast that it is hard to take it all in,” he said. “I am definitely ready for the next chapter and to finally have a good job and go support myself.”

Machart is a graduate of St. Paul High School in Shiner. He played football at Abilene Christian University, where he was studying engineering and business when he realized an office job was not for him.

He moved back to Shiner and worked part time as a helper for a power line contracting company. He said he enjoyed being outdoors and working with his hands.

“That is when I realized I thoroughly enjoyed the field and everything that comes with it,” Machart said. “It is kind of like being on a team again, like how football was for me. You have everyone on the crew with a common goal, and everyone is working toward that goal.”

Machart knew about TSTC from friends who graduated from the Electrical Power and Controls program.

“The financial part of me wishes I would have started out sooner at TSTC, maybe right out of high school,” Machart said. “But at the same time, I would not be the person I am today if I had not gone to Abilene and then come to TSTC. I grew as a person.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to 


TSTC Graduate Continues Family Tradition in Construction Field

(WACO, Texas) – Janson Teal was exposed to the construction field early on as relatives built homes and managed projects.

Now Teal is forging his own path in the industry, thanks to Texas State Technical College’s Waco campus. This month he graduated from TSTC with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Building Construction Technology.

“I really enjoyed my time there,” Teal said. “I liked how it was smaller, and you can get more attention and better learning that way. It is a hands-on technical college.”

Teal said his favorite courses at TSTC dealt with blueprint reading, construction management and field engineering. The classes built the foundation for his job as an assistant project manager at Grinder Taber & Grinder Inc. in Memphis, Tennessee, where he began work in September.

“It has been pretty seamless,” Teal said. “They (his co-workers) have accepted me, and I really try to help out as much as I can and fit in where I can. It has gone really smoothly.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and his class schedule, Teal discovered he had three classes during the fall semester that would be offered totally online.

“I did not want to just sit in my apartment in Waco and take classes, so I started applying for jobs. And that is how I ended up in Memphis,” he said.

Herschel Miller, lead instructor in TSTC’s Building Construction Technology program in Waco, said Teal was eager to learn.

“He accepted challenges with open arms,” Miller said. “This was exceptionally true when the COVID-19 crisis took over. I also saw in Janson good mentoring skills for fellow classmates. The good traits I personally witnessed and saw in Janson will do nothing but benefit him in his life’s journeys in business. He will be a successful young man in whatever he chooses to do in life.”

Teal’s job involves working with contracts and estimates, visiting job sites and communicating with architects and building owners.

“You have to make sure nothing goes wrong and prevent wrong things happening,” he said. ‘You have to identify a future problem and get rid of it before it happens.”

The city of Lubbock, where Teal was born, factored into his choosing TSTC. He is a graduate of Abernathy High School in Abernathy.

“I was on a college visit,” he said. “I was at Texas Tech (in Lubbock) and I was trying to find something I would go to college for. I knew I was interested in construction. I started Googling construction schools and found TSTC, and I really liked it. It was hands-on, and you built things and learned things that way.”

Teal is not finished with his academic work. He plans to start an online bachelor’s degree in construction management at The University of Southern Mississippi in January.

“Once you figure out what you want to do, just go do it and do not be afraid, even if it means being different from everyone else,” Teal said.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to  

TSTC, L3Harris Technologies Celebrate Hiring of TSTC Machining Student

(WACO, Texas) – Representatives of Texas State Technical College and L3Harris Technologies recently gathered to celebrate a new company employee at a recognition ceremony.

Tyler Rochelle, of Whitney, was hired by L3Harris as a computer numerical control machinist for its manufacturing department in Waco. He began in November as a part-time employee, but his work will increase to full time upon graduation this month from TSTC with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Precision Machining Technology.

“TSTC gave me all the fundamental knowledge to get started on the machines they have,” Rochelle said.

Jon Piatt, the company’s vice president and general manager, told Rochelle his skill set and desire to work will help him get where he wants to go in his career.

“You are coming in at a great time,” Piatt said at the ceremony.

Travis Beach, the company’s manufacturing manager, said Rochelle’s hiring signals a time of growth for the company as it secures new contracts. Recently the U.S. Air Force awarded the company a contract to design, produce and certify a state-of-the-art modernization solution for a fleet of 176 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve C-130H aircraft and a U.S. Navy task order to provide planned maintenance services and in-service repairs on the U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J and T-model aircraft. 

Beach said the last time TSTC students were hired for manufacturing-type jobs at the company was in 2014.

“Hiring Tyler is a big deal,” said Beach, a TSTC graduate.

Jerome Mendias, TSTC’s associate provost, said the company can look to hire quality graduates from several of the college’s technical programs, including Aircraft Airframe Technology, Aircraft Powerplant Technology, Avionics Technology and Industrial Systems. 

Mendias called TSTC’s relationship with the company a natural fit because of the physical proximity to each other and the shared missions of excellence, integrity and service. He said the company is a good neighbor.

“We have a track record together,” Mendias said.

Rochelle thought about studying 3D animation and modeling when he was in high school, but he said he is not the type to sit at a desk for several hours at a time. He took a tour of TSTC when he was in high school, looked through the program list and found Precision Machining Technology.

“It honestly caught my eye,” he said. “This is the core of manufacturing with every product made.”

L3Harris is an international aerospace and defense technology company with 48,000 employees and customers in more than 100 countries. The company’s Waco facility specializes in aircraft modifications.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to 

TSTC Welding Technology Student Honored With Campus Award

(WACO, Texas) – Edward Sanchez, of Hubbard, is proud to be a third-generation welder.

“I come in and do the best I can do every day,” he said.

Sanchez graduated this month with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology at Texas State Technical College’s Waco campus. He is also the fall semester’s Mike Torres Jr. Leadership Award recipient.

“It’s awesome with me being the first in my family to graduate from college and being an older, nontraditional student,” he said. “It’s a humbling feeling.”

Sanchez previously attended TSTC in 2000 to study Occupational Safety Compliance Technology, but did not finish the program.

He returned to TSTC in 2018 to pursue Welding Technology because he wanted to sharpen his skills, learn proper terminology and know how to break down materials. He completed a structural welding certificate in December 2019.

“It was nerve-wracking at first,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez cited Carl Wilmeth, an instructor in TSTC’s Welding Technology program, as an influence for his work. Wilmeth taught him in the first-semester class, Introduction to Blueprint Reading for Welders.

“He is known to be a man of integrity,” Wilmeth said.

Sanchez’s desire is to be a good example for his five sons, ages six to 19.

“I would like to see them get into a trade,” he said.

Sanchez grew up in South Waco riding bicycles with his friends, wading into creeks and playing video games at Safeway. 

“We didn’t know what it was like sitting home playing Xbox,” he said.

Sanchez graduated from the “old” University High School when it was located on Valley Mills Drive.

He worked for eight years at Caterpillar in Waco before the plant shut down in 2017. He was a jack-of-all-trades, working where needed at the facility. The closure led to Sanchez’s going back to college. 

The Mike Torres Jr. Leadership Award is given to honor the memory of Waco native Mike Torres Jr., who taught in TSTC’s Digital Media and Design program until his death in 2005. Torres graduated from Bishop Louis Reicher Catholic High School and TSTC’s Commercial Art Advertising and Integrated Digital Image program, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald.

The award signifies qualities that Torres was known for: courage, honesty and integrity. The award is given each semester at commencement to a candidate for graduation who is nominated by TSTC faculty and staff members. It was first given in fall 2011, according to TSTC archival information.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to 

Kalahari Resorts and Conventions Looks to TSTC to Help Fill Jobs

(HUTTO, Texas) – Kalahari Resorts and Conventions in Round Rock is providing big opportunities not only for fun, but also for jobs for Texas State Technical College students.

“Kalahari’s presence is a game-changer for the entire hospitality sector, and especially our Culinary Arts program,” said Michael Smith, senior field development officer for The TSTC Foundation at TSTC’s Williamson County campus in Hutto. 

“The fact that they are only five miles from campus and offer a wide array of culinary- and hospitality-related careers is a huge benefit to our students and TSTC,” he said. 

Kalahari opened in mid-November and bills itself as America’s Largest Indoor Waterpark Resort, with a convention center, spa, restaurants, shopping, live entertainment and 975 guest rooms. The resort is projected to create 1,000 jobs.

“Kalahari is a company that not only takes care of the employees that work for them, but the community as a whole,” said Nelson Adams, an instructor in TSTC’s Culinary Arts program on the Williamson County campus.

Chad Blunston, Kalahari’s executive director of culinary, said workers are hired and trained in a home kitchen or department on the property. When all of the hiring is complete, the resort will have more than 200 cooks, leaders and supervisors.

“It is really a great place for a young culinarian or experienced culinarian who wants to explore other avenues,” he said. “There are opportunities for growth in our resort. You have it all under one roof.”

Julio Diego Vazquez of Hutto, a TSTC Culinary Arts student, began working at the resort less than two months ago. He works with banquet events and also food preparation for the restaurants.

“I am learning a lot,” Vazquez said. “It’s a big place to grow.”

Adams and Blunston knew each other through the American Culinary Federation’s Austin chapter. Blunston mentioned to Adams about needing a place to train employees as the resort was under construction.

Adams told Blunston about an unused kitchen lab on the third floor of the East Williamson County Higher Education Center in Hutto.

“With both TSTC and Kalahari collaborating on the development, we soon had a brand-new kitchen designed specifically for the purpose of putting more Texans to work,” Adams said. 

Blunston said there are more opportunities at the resort for TSTC graduates.

“You can imagine the water pumps and infrastructure our building has,” he said. “You can imagine what the HVAC system looks like. There are many different elements that TSTC graduates can enjoy.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to 

TSTC Medical Office Specialist certificate program offers virtual hands-on learning

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Health Information Technology instructor Sarah Brooks has taught at Texas State Technical College for 17 years. Her excitement upon discovering the many opportunities available in health information guided her to a career as department chair at TSTC.

Brooks discussed the advantages of earning a Medical Office Specialist certificate online, as well as the paths available for someone who studies the expansive field of health information technology.

What is the day-to-day career like for a medical office specialist?

It can vary, depending on job title and work setting. You spend the majority of your day in front of the computer, with little or no direct patient contact. Your main job function is to ensure the information found in the patient’s electronic medical record is timely, complete and accurate. This is typically a fast-paced working environment with little downtime.

What do you think the advantages are of earning a medical office specialist certificate online?

The advantages of earning any certificate or degree online is the flexibility that this learning environment offers. Many of our students work full time and have families of their own while taking courses online. Students are able to work on their course when they want, from where they want.

What are some of the best traits that a student should have to succeed in the program?

 Self-discipline, self-motivation and time management are traits that are critical in being successful as an online student.

Is the learning for this certificate still hands-on?

 Absolutely. In our program, the instructors make themselves readily available to each student by offering virtual office hours and virtual learning labs every week at various times throughout the day and evening. The program also utilizes a variety of real-world software applications that students will gain hands-on experience in.

What advice would you give to somebody who was considering enrolling in this program?

 Students need to know they are not alone. The instructor and students work together as a team, sharing their work, life and educational experiences during the online learning process.

To learn more about Health Information Technology at TSTC, visit

Female receptionist working the computer.

TSTC Automotive Technology Program Receives $30,000 from San Antonio Organization

(WACO, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s statewide Automotive Technology program will be revving up stronger than ever, thanks to a generous contribution from a Texas-based automotive organization. 

The Community of Automotive Professionals recently gave $30,000 for TSTC’s Automotive Technology programs in Harlingen, Sweetwater and Waco. The money will give a financial boost to TSTC’s ability to provide scholarships and improve equipment for use in labs and classes.

“(TSTC supports) all our core values, and we are partners moving forward,” said Mark Colaw, board chairman of the Community of Automotive Professionals, the 501(c)(3) organization that produces CarFest each spring in San Antonio. “They have a reach across Texas. That is what is important and impresses me.”

Michael Smith, senior field development officer for The TSTC Foundation, said the organization has consistently supported TSTC in recent years. It has given $160,000 in gifts to TSTC since 2015.

“We just have a phenomenal advocate in Mark (Colaw),” Smith said. “He sees the needs in the automotive industry and recognizes the quality of students that come out of TSTC.”

Miguel Zoleta, lead instructor in TSTC’s Automotive Technology program in Harlingen, said some of the organization’s financial gifts have gone toward student uniforms and lockers.

“We have also awarded students scholarships so they could purchase tools they need for our program,” he said.

Zoleta said the program has been fortunate to receive engines and a transmission from Jasper Engines and Transmissions through CarFest that students use in some of their courses.

Rudy Cervantez, TSTC’s statewide chair of the Automotive Technology department, said Automotive Technology students in Waco who bought a shirt at the campus store were given a second shirt free because of the financial gift. Students were also able to use new lockers to store tools.

“We wanted to help the students out,” he said.

Cervantez said Automotive Technology students statewide who have good referrals from program instructors and meet a grade-point average requirement are eligible for a $500 scholarship.

Cervantez said some money was used to help members of the first cohort of Tesla’s START training program at TSTC earlier this year. That program is taught at the Kultgen Automotive Center on the Waco campus.

CarFest is planned for April 9-11, 2021, at Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio. However, the organization is working on contingency plans for the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are working on a Plan A and a Plan B,” Colaw said. “We improve our event every year. We are working on the new improvements as part of the plans. We are staying conscious that we need to pivot.”

For more information on the Community of Automotive Professionals, go to

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TSTC student’s love of technology guides him to cybersecurity

(ROSENBERG, Texas) – Texas State Technical College student Zachary Powers is about to receive his Associate of Applied Science degree in Cybersecurity and has some sound advice for those about to embark on their college journey: Never give up.

The Sugar Land native said that his love of technology is what pointed him in the direction of TSTC’s hands-on program.

Why did you decide to attend TSTC?

I knew TSTC would provide me with the hands-on learning experience that is going to allow me to succeed.

Who was your biggest support system during your time in college?

My instructor, Mr. (Timothy) Janssen. There were times that I wanted to quit, but he would challenge me, and this led to me excelling in my coursework.

Do you have a favorite TSTC memory?

In the Personal Computer Hardware course, we would have computer teardown and repair build-offs, which challenged us to learn about each other and taught us to work together.

What advice would you give to somebody who is about to start their first semester in college?

No matter what life throws at you, never give up. Use all the resources available, do not be afraid to ask your instructors for help, and create study groups.

What will you do after you graduate from TSTC?

I hope to get a career started in cybersecurity. My goal is to eventually be employed by the National Weather Service as a meteorologist or a researcher to help improve early warning systems to prevent loss of life.

To learn more about TSTC, visit




Second Cohort of Tesla START Program Graduates at TSTC

(WACO, Texas) – The Tesla START training program at Texas State Technical College held a recognition ceremony earlier this fall for its second cohort of graduates.

The TSTC students began the 12-week training program in August to learn the skills necessary to become advanced electric vehicle technicians at Tesla. As a Tesla-paid hourly internship, the students developed technical expertise and earned certifications through a blended approach of in-class theory, hands-on labs and self-paced learning. 

All students who successfully complete the nationwide program are eligible to work at a Tesla Service Center in the United States. 

The program’s classes are held at the Kultgen Automotive Center on the Waco campus. 

“We are excited and proud of the second graduating class from the Tesla START program in Waco,” said Adam Barber, TSTC’s interim executive director of Workforce Training in Waco. “A couple of students are previous TSTC graduates, so that’s especially cool. We look forward to the next class and continued partnership with Tesla.”

Graduates from the program’s second cohort are Matthew Abel of Waco, Corey Broussard of Virginia, Alexander Burkman of Frisco, Jonathan Butler of McGregor, James Dawe of Grand Junction, Colorado; Eder Estrada of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Pablo Hernandez of Fort Worth and Mohannad Naffaa of Waco. 

“These guys worked very hard, and they all got placed in good locations,” said Mark Tosto, a Tesla START program instructor. 

Waco’s second cohort started work at their assigned service centers in November. Butler is working at Air Impressions in Waco as an aircraft mechanic. 

Dawe split time growing up between Great Britain and Colorado and had an early interest in the environment and renewable energy. He learned about the Tesla program from YouTube. 

Some of Dawe’s favorite times in the program were shadowing workers on Fridays at Tesla’s service center in Dallas, and he and Abel working five days in Alabama in September during a company battery-charging project. Dawe said they helped charge batteries on hundreds of Tesla vehicles ready to be shipped to stores nationwide. Dawe and Abel also traveled to Nashville, Tennessee to deliver batteries.

“It was awesome to be thrown in the fire,” Dawe said.

Dawe began working in early November at Tesla’s service center in Littleton, Colorado.

Naffaa was born in Lebanon and came to Texas in 2014. He enrolled in 2018 at TSTC’s Waco campus to study Automotive Technology. He graduated with the program’s associate degree earlier this year.

Naffaa said his time at TSTC combines his passion for cars and his family’s interest in his study of engineering. 

“I learned a lot here,” he said. “I learned how the car works and about the functional parts. I also learned about the suspensions.”

Naffaa started work in early November at Tesla’s service center in Marietta, Georgia.

“I’m super excited,” he said. “It’s a big step.”

There are currently seven other Tesla START partnerships with colleges in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington. The program launched in 2018 and has had more than 300 graduates to date.

The program’s 2021 cohorts in Waco are full, but interviews for 2022 cohorts are scheduled to be held later this year, Tosto said.

For more information on Tesla START, go to 

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TSTC Solar Energy Technology Program Ready to Meet Job Needs

(WACO, Texas) – As the old saying goes, “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” 

That can also include solar farms.

Invenergy, a worldwide private sustainable energy company, plans to build what it claims will be the largest solar farm in the United States. The 1,310-megawatt Samson Solar Energy Center facility will be located in Northeast Texas and be fully operational in 2023. The facility is projected to produce energy for 300,000 homes, according to company information.

“Right now, solar is booming,” said Hugh Whitted, chair of Texas State Technical College’s Solar Energy and Electrical Construction department. “It has rebounded from the tariffs that were put into place a few years back. We have a lot of systems going in and the people that need the work done.”

The Samson Solar Energy Center project is expected to generate 600 construction jobs and 12 permanent jobs upon completion, according to information from Invenergy.

Texas’ solar industry employs more than 13,000 workers, according to the Texas Solar Power Association.

Jobs for solar photovoltaic installers is projected to grow to more than 18,000 up to 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The growth is attributed to an increased demand for usage and upkeep, and state and local governments offering incentives.

“I am getting emails usually at least a couple of times a month from solar and electrical contractors all over the place, most of them in and around the Metroplex or Austin to San Antonio,” said Whitted, who is based at TSTC’s Waco campus.

Holtek Fireplace and Solar in Waco began doing local solar work in 1999, said Holt Kelly, the company’s owner. The company does designs and sales, while an electrical contractor performs installations.

“Here in this market, it is spotty,” Kelly said. “We are a small company. I am picking and choosing.”

Kelly said businesses in the Waco area are not yet quite in tune with installing solar panels. But, he said homeowners have been using solar panels for years.

“Solar farms are great, but in my opinion solar is best used most efficiently at the point of use of power, the buildings where the energy is being used,” Kelly said.

Training for solar work means going into a career in the electrical field. TSTC’s students can pursue a “Triple Crown” consisting of an Energy Efficiency Specialist certificate, an Electrical Construction certificate and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Solar Energy Technology.

“It (solar) is not an industry that is going to shrink, realistically,” Whitted said. “People are not going to stop putting in solar unless there is something better out there.”

Whitted said skills in basic mathematics and communication are needed for the solar field. It also helps not to be afraid of heights.

Kelly said people interested in the solar field should strive to become an electrical apprentice and journeyman.

“If you want to do that, you are in the construction business because that is a big part of installing the arrays,” he said. “If you do not want to be the boots on the roof, then learn how to design these things and learn as much engineering as you can.”

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